Gender, General, Govt, Politics, press

The Mother of all Budgets neglects mothers

Media statement by Steven Sim, MP for Bukit Mertajam

01 NOVEMBER 2017 | PARLIAMENT, KUALA LUMPUR

When he tabled the 2018 Budget on 27 October 2017, Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister Najib Razak presumptuously called his own budget, “The Mother of All Budget”.

What is utterly surprising, and ironical, The Mother of All Budget does not contain any good news for mothers and women in general.

Two critical women’s health programmed are glaringly missing from the 2018 Budget, namely, free mammogram and HPV vaccination.

In 2014, these programmes were allocated RM 20 million.

By 2015, the amount was reduced 90% leaving only RM 2 million.

In 2016, the amount was cut to zero and only after my colleagues and I raised the issue in Parliament, the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development promised to reinstate them without specifying the amount to be allocated.

In the 2017 Budget, I pointed out that mammogram and HPV vaccination were totally removed from the Budget documents although Najib announced that RM 30 million will be allocated for these programmes in his Budget Speech.

Now in the 2018 Budget, the programmes disappeared from both the Budget and the Budget Speech altogether.

Breast cancer and cervical cancer are among the leading killers of women in Malaysia.

According to the Health Minister’s answer to my parliamentary question on 5 November 2015, breast cancer is the most frequently occurring cancer among Malaysians, regardless of gender. From the latest data available, there were 3209 cases of breast cancer diagnosed and reported to the National Cancer Registry in just one year in 2008.

According to the same ministerial reply, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer among women in Malaysia, with 845 cases reported in one year in 2008.

The Government’s free mammogram programme was highly popular and had helped 263,627 women with early detection of breast cancer. This shows that the mammogram programme is popular, highly relevant and has helped a significant number of women in early detection to fight breast cancer.

Government health programmes such as the free mammogram and HPV vaccination are important especially for women from lower income group. The wide accessibility of government-run programmes also means greater awareness in the general public.

Now with the allocation removed from the Budget, only mothers and women in Penang and Selangor, can still enjoy free mammogram because both state governments are still implementing this programme.

Is it too much to allocate 0.007% to protect women’s health?

Najib announced a budget of RM280.25 billion this year. If only he allocated the 2014 amount back to the free mammogram and HPV vaccination programmes, that would only cost the government RM 20 million or merely 0.007% of the total Budget.

Is that too much to ask for to protect women’s health?

I call upon the Prime Minister to reinstate these programmes if he really cares for Malaysians in general and women in particular.

Steven Sim Chee Keong
MP for Bukit Mertajam
Director, Penang Women’s Development Corporation

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