50:50 public-private partnership mooted

The private sector’s contribution is a meagre 19.9 per cent of the total expenditure on healthcare in the Sultanate, it was stated at a symposium on Wednesday.
Titled ‘Investment in the Health Sector’, it was organised by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in collaboration with Public Authority for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ithraa), under the auspices of Nasser Khamis al Jashmi, Under-Secretary of Ministry of Finance.
Oman’s population has doubled from 2.3 million in 2003 to 4.5 million in 2015, accompanied by an increase in government expenditure on health sector, which bears 81.1 per cent of the total spending on healthcare, according to the ‘Guide to Investment in the Ministry of Health’ launched on the occasion.
It said the health costs have increased as a result of a rise in the cost of advanced therapeutic techniques needed for modern healthcare: medical equipment, medicines as well as treatment of chronic of diseases and their complications.
Dr Ali bin Talib al Hinai, MoH Under-Secretary for Planning Affairs, in his speech, said a partnership between the public and private sector is necessary for a sustainable health system.
“The ministry is keen on building a 50:50 partnership with the private sector by 2050, in which spending on health services will be shared equally between them,” said Dr Al Hinai.
The fields that currently require investment are: hospitals specialising in obstetrics, gynaecology, maternity and childhood, specialised centres for treating diabetic complications as well as specialised centres for rehabilitation and physiotherapy.
Healthcare for the growing population, especially for the elderly, will be one of the key challenges for the Sultanate by 2040, when they are expected to account for 9.8 per cent of the total population.
The other challenges discussed at the symposium were epidemiological transition towards non-communicable diseases, besides economic and geographic challenges.
Dr Al Hinai said the symposium aimed at outlining the investment opportunities in the sector in terms of medical services, pharma industry and biomedical technology.
According to Dr Al Hinai, public spending on healthcare is one of the most important investments in human capital sought by all countries. “Health sector investment contributes to reducing the burden on the public sector. It will result in developing a competitive market and increasing economic proficiency and producing the best services.”
Dr Halima al Hinai, IFA Director of Investment and Financial Alternatives Department, in her presentation on ‘Investment in the health sector: The challenges and aspirations’, said the significance of healthcare investment lies in achieving a comprehensive health coverage.
“Future objectives related to partnership with the private sector aim at positioning Oman as one of the regional destinations for medical tourism services, fulfilling goals of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the field of primary, preventive and therapeutic care,” said Dr Halima.
Expanding the range of therapeutic health services across the Sultanate in terms of establishment of global standard medical cities and hospitals is also one of the objectives.
Faisal al Hinai, Head of Service Investment Promotion Section at Ithraa, presented a paper on ‘Invest in Oman’. He illustrated the investment initiatives in light of personal income tax exemption, five-year tax exemption, competitive interest rates, 70 per cent foreign ownership, and freedom of capital and profits repatriation, highlighting that healthcare is a promising investment sector in the country.
Nasima al Balushi, Director-General for Export Development and Acting Director-General of Investment Promotion, spoke about factors that prompt enhancement of healthcare infrastructure, upgrading competency standards as well as attracting investment in the sector.
She said the health sector is expected to witness an economic boost in the next few years.
The symposium mooted increasing the expenditure on the healthcare sector from 8 per cent to 10 per cent of the State’s General Budget by 2050, finding new funding sources, establishing a Health Fund to be supported by investment revenues, forming an integrated system of health endowment (Waqf), developing a genuine partnership with the private sector and encouraging investment in future health projects.
It also suggested encouraging local manufacturing of pharma products and attaining self-sufficiency.