March 10, 2020
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held a joint international conference under the theme of “Developing Asia: Achieving Inclusive and Sustainable Growth with Sound Fiscal Management” at the JICA Ichigaya Building on Feb. 13, 2020. Makimoto Saeda, executive senior research fellow of the JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI), took part in the conference and spoke about universal health coverage (UHC).The conference brought together government officials from the finance ministries and central banks of 12 Asian countries.
In the session of “Invest More, Invest Better to Support the SDGs: Lessons from Universal Health Coverage” moderated by Tobe Makoto, senior advisor of JICA’s Human Development Department, JICA-RI’s Makimoto looked back at the first-ever Joint Session of Finance and Health Ministers at G20 Osaka and the UNGA High-Level Meeting on UHC in 2019, and stated that UHC was an essential human right and an engine for human capital as well as a pathway to inclusive growth and the achievement of SDGs. She also noted that healthcare was one of the sectors driving economic growth in each country and creating employment opportunities, and that resilient health systems are imperative to mitigate the social and economic impact of infectious disease outbreaks before they spread out of control. Therefore, reliable domestic financing in health should be prioritized in each country. However, 20–40% of health spending is estimated as wasteful and increases in health spending will be inevitable due to population ageing and technological innovation, so that investment in health needs to be complemented by measures to ensure that resources are used well. She emphasized the importance of joint leadership of finance and health ministries at the national level for coping with rapidly increasing demand or challenges associated with fiscal stagnation while ensuring fiscal discipline in resource allocation and spending.
In the presentations that followed, Mai Farid, assistant minister of Finance for Egypt spoke about the health insurance system introduced in Egypt at the behest of that country’s Ministry of Finance, and Bounsathien Phimmasenh from the Department of Finance, Ministry of Health, Lao PDR spoke about efforts to reform and improve the efficiency of the health sector in Laos in order to provide UHC. The discussions that followed focused on approaches to cooperation between related organizations in order to achieve sustainable health resources, including the need for initiatives that address the dialogue gap between government ministries and agencies, the impact of private investment, and investment not only in healthcare but also in the social factors that affect health (e.g. disease prevention and the environment with regard to water and sanitation).
The final round table was moderated by Changyong Rhee, director of the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department, and representatives from Afghanistan, Laos and the Philippines participated in discussion together with Ryosuke Nakata, JICA’s chief economist. The joint conference concluded after discussions on the state of each country in a wide range of areas, from financial transparency to technology, climate change and gender inequality.