Kuala Lumpur, 21 March 2023 — The announcement made today in the Dewan Rakyat to include health as one of ten parliamentary special select committees newly approved in this Parliament to monitor government ministries and activities, is a necessary and vital move for the future of Malaysian healthcare.
“With health making up the second largest allocation in this year’s Federal Budget and comprising around 9 percent of the overall proposed expenditure, billions spent on dealing with the consequences of COVID-19, and ongoing challenges such as an aging population and non-communicable diseases crisis, having a PSSC specifically for health to provide oversight is critical,” emphasised Azrul Mohd Khalib, Chief Executive of Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy when commenting on the news.
“The need for a Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Health goes beyond just the immediate issue of providing oversight to and evaluation of the government’s management of existing health concerns. We also have long outstanding and urgent issues related to healthcare reforms, infrastructure gaps in Sarawak and Sabah, management of healthcare workers, healthcare financing reforms, pandemic preparedness, and the escalating cost of health services which need informed debate, discussion and political commitment. Too many of these issues have been kicked down the road for decades for the next government and Health Minister to figure out.”
“The roles and functions of the PSSC have also increased in importance and significance. The previous chair of the PSSC for health, science and innovation, Dr. Kevin Yii (Bandar Kuching) demonstrated how these select committees can help shape government bills and regulations such as the Control of Tobacco Product and Smoking Bill, and also act as an effective check and balance. The previous high standards set for the PSSC should be maintained,” Azrul stated.
“However, a Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Health is not a magic bullet to solve or address issues which will take time and political will to address such as sustainable healthcare financing. But it will help provide visibility, guidance and direction to the Executive and the civil servants. We should continue to empower members of the PSSCs to act as a check and balance towards any policy excesses or problems caused by proposed legislation which may arise.”
“PSSCs have the potential to raise problems and issues, and introduce amendments to the bill before they are tabled for debate. Therefore, we need to ensure that we have knowledgeable and interested Members of Parliament to be on the committee so that the relevant issues and questions can be raised,” emphasised Azrul.
“Finally, the Galen Centre calls for the proceedings of the select committees to be open for members of the public to attend or observe. It is frustrating that we can easily attend most meetings of parliamentary select committees of other countries such as the United Kingdom, but are prohibited to do so in Malaysia unless invited. This should change. It is important that people who would like to view and be informed on issues of interest be able to do so.”