Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – The government on Wednesday said the 2023 healthcare budget would put a greater emphasis on non-Covid issues such as stunting, a chronic malnutrition problem that impedes the country's quest of fostering quality human capital.
Over the past years, the government has allocated a substantial amount of the state budget – even reaching hundreds of trillions of rupiahs – to combat Covid-19. Now that Indonesia is moving towards an endemic status, the Southeast Asian country is shifting its focus to tackling other health issues.
"We will continue to remain on guard. But we are shifting our government spending from Covid-19 to non-Covid issues," Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati told a conference at the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) in Jakarta.
"That would include stunting, tuberculosis, cancer, hypertension, etc," she added.
The government is allocating Rp 178.7 trillion ($11.9 billion) in its healthcare budget this year. Unlike the past few years, the government is no longer setting aside a specific amount of budget for Covid-19 handling in 2023.
Data showed the government last year had spent an estimated Rp 176.7 trillion on healthcare. About Rp 47 trillion came from Covid-related spending. This was much lower than the allocated healthcare budget in 2022, namely Rp 212.9 trillion, with Rp 82.4 trillion going to address the coronavirus pandemic.
In 2021, Indonesia allotted a whopping Rp 312.4 trillion for healthcare, with Covid-19 handling taking the lion's share of Rp 188 trillion. At the time, the highly contagious Delta variant swept across Indonesia with its hospitals greatly overwhelmed and people queueing up to get oxygen.
"All those [non-Covid] health issues are getting back our attention again. Luckily, over the past three years, we have been greatly improving our hospitals," Sri Mulyani said.
Indonesia plans to use the Rp 178.7 trillion budget, among others, to provide supplementary food for 50,000 pregnant mothers with chronic energy deficiency and 138,889 underweight toddlers. It is aiming for 10,280 units of toddler development anti-stunting kits, data showed.
Other priorities include the construction and rehabilitation of 1,017 family planning counseling centers. About 8.1 million families with children under two years old are expected to get counseling to help them navigate through their children's first 1,000 days of life.
The stunting prevalence in Indonesia has dropped from 37 percent in 2014 to 21.6 percent last year, the government recently revealed. Indonesia seeks to lower the national stunting prevalence to 14 percent by 2024.