Proactive health policies crucial for Timor-Leste as health funding declines, says new World Bank report

February 16, 2017

DILI, February 16, 2017 – A new World Bank report says better planning and policies are critical to managing the rising costs while sustaining improvements to Timor-Leste’s health system.

The report, Turning Challenges into Opportunities: The Medium Term Health Expenditure Pressure Study in Timor-Leste reviews funding issues facing the Timor-Leste health sector within the next five years, including the key areas requiring significant funding, and the likely support coming from both government and international donors.

The World Bank report, led by Xiaohui Hou, Senior Economist, analyzes past spending trends in health, forecasts future resources and funding, and examines the implications of these trends for the Timor-Leste Ministry of Health to sustain improvements to health services across the country. Key recommendations from the report include improving the efficiency of health spending by maximizing the value of the current workforce, and better long term budget planning.

Timor-Leste has achieved significant improvements in health since becoming independent fifteen years ago. At the time of independence, Timor-Leste had a decimated health infrastructure; with only 20 doctors for a population of one million. Today, the Government employs nearly 900 doctors and health outcomes have improved substantially, with life expectancy rising from 48.5year in 1990 to 67 years in 2014. Antenatal coverage has improved and there is far greater awareness across Timor-Leste of infectious and non-communicable diseases.

“Timor-Leste’s health budget has risen steadily over the past decade, as actual government health spending has more than doubled between 2008 and 2014,” said Bolormaa Amgaabazar, the World Bank’s Country Representative for Timor-Leste.

“Yet the growth outlook for the Timorese economy during the next few years is subdued, and as such, the government is attempting to control rising public expenditure. With this in mind, now, more than ever, strategic planning and proactive health policies are critical to the continued and sustained improvement of the Timor-Leste health system” Ms. Amgaabazar said.

The Turning Challenges into Opportunities report was supported by the Australian Government and the European Commission.

Since 2009, the World Bank has assisted the Government of Timor-Leste to rebuild national infrastructure, stabilize the economy and strengthen government institutions. In 2017 this work includes support for improved service delivery in Education, Nutrition and the construction of climate- resilient roads and transport infrastructure, as well as support for the development of non-oil economic opportunities.

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