Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Monday claimed that all pending issues on the health sector allocations and policies during the 12th five year plan have been resolved during their meeting. This follows a directive by the Prime Minister during Saturdays full Planning Commission meeting to Azad and Ahluwalia to settle the policy feud as soon as possible.
It was a good meeting. All pending issues have been sorted out. It is now for the Secretary,Planning Commission,and other officers to work out the details, Azad said after an hour-long meeting with Ahluwalia at Nirman Bhavan. He,however,did not answer questions on the nature of compromise reached.
Ahluwalia said the differences were not substantive and they wanted certain things phrased in a different way which we have agreed to. Moreover,within the health total budget they want some inter-department re-allocation which we have no objection to. The two secretaries will work it out. They stand reassured that we are not asking for hasty measures to achieve the HLEG recommendations.
The ministry and the commission have been at loggerheads over the proposed PPP model for implementation of Universal Health Coverage by a managed care model of competitive bidding between private and public healthcare providers. In the final chapter though the word corporatisation has not been used,the direction,feel ministry officials,remains unchanged. Ahluwalia says the differences on PPP were more perceived than real. We have always said that if state governments want to do PPP they should be free to do so,and if the Central governments wants it they too should be free. The minister agrees with this view, he said.
Azad is learnt to have urged Ahluwalia to invest in strengthening the public sector by building infrastructure and manpower to implement UHC rather than to hand it over to the private sector.
The proposal to make the National Health Mission into an additional Central assistance fund where money will be released only after audited reports are submitted and not just on utilisation certificates has been opposed by the ministry on the grounds that it would lead to unnecessary delay in release of funds. The ministry is peeved at the role envisaged for it as a peer reviewer of state plans that would effectively reduce its say in how the money it gives to the states is spent.
The total allocation is only 2.80 crore of which 2.50 crore is for the health mission. What remains is a measly Rs 30,000 crore for all our other schemes and in some like AIDS control there is a drastic reduction in available funds. The Planning Commission seems to have missed the fact that external funding like from the Bill and Melinda gates Foundation has dried up and we cannot do with a Rs 9,394 crore allocation under the AIDS head against Rs 11,000 crore during the last plan, said a senior official in the ministry.