Rethink of our health, defence costs needed

While our health budget at $10.2 billion, constituting 2.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), seems like a lot of money, other countries spend far more on health care, with the United States topping the list withan expenditure of 17 per cent of GDP.

We all know why our healthcare costs are ballooning: ageing population, newfangled, exorbitant investigations and treatment regimes, reimbursements to doctors for procedures done rather than outcome efficiencies, all-in insurance without co-payments which encourage gouging by doctors, just to name the major ones.

Perhaps, because our health budget still seems far away from the levels of the US, there seems to be insufficient political will to manage health costs more strictly.

Allowing Medisave to be used for procedures in Malaysia (where, anecdotally, costs can be up to 10 times lower), mandatory use of generics where available (already enforced by some health insurances) and a more dedicated use of telemedicine will lower costs.

Our military budget has also ballooned over the last decade.

At $14.8 billion, it exceeds the combined budgets for trade and industry, national development, social and family development together with environment and water resources, which add up to about $13.7 billion.

Defence is paramount to our survival, but whereas we have not had a war for more than 50 years (granted that it may be because of our preparedness, as reflected by the oversized defence budget), we have need of trade, water, infrastructure and family support every single day - so, perhaps a rethink is needed?

Are there too many officers and generals who are paid too handsomely? Do we need the latest military planes when drones with smart bombs may suffice? Does the latest weaponry and the touting of a "4G army" really make us a better fighting force?

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2018, with the headline 'Rethink of our health, defence costs needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe