Cambodia sets aside a larger percentage of its gross domestic product for health care than nearly any other country on the globe, according to a new World Health Organization report.
But an enormous, unregulated private sector and inefficient use of funds are crippling that money’s effectiveness, officials said last week.
In 2001, the most recent year cited in the WHO report released last week, Cambodia earmarked 11.8 percent of its GDP for health care—more than any other country beside Lebanon, Switzerland and the US. But, the government’s contribution to the total amount spent on health care was just under 15 percent of the total national budget in 2001—less than any other nation’s government that year.
“With the level of expenditures that is being provided through the government budget—even if it were to double or triple—it would be insufficient to fund publicly-funded health services to match Cambodia’s need,” WHO Country Representative Jim Tulloch said Wednesday. In response to the government shortfall, almost all health care spending in Cambodia comes out of its people’s pockets.
When public and private sources are combined, Cambodia spends $33.20 per capita on health care, said Dr Khout Thavary, chief of financial planning at the Ministry of Health. Only $3.50 of that comes from the government.
The ministry spent only 58.9 percent of its $50.5 million budget last year, according to figures from the Ministry of Finance.
Public and private services “should complement each other,” Secretary of State for the Ministry of Health Mam Bun Heng said Wednesday. The government has committed to expanding the ministry’s budget, he added.
The WHO report shows that health spending increased yearly from 1998. “If it was effectively used, it would be adequate to buy basic services,” Tulloch said of that $33.20. “The challenge is getting it effectively used.”