'Land reform exports must bankroll health budget'

HARARE - Proceeds from Zimbabwe’s policy of seizing white-owned land to redistribute to black farmers were supposed to be able to finance a big chunk of the health budget, the chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Finance and Economic Development David Chapfika has said.

“If only those farms were fully utilised, we could generate about $12 billion every year. From that, we could finance health and other social services,” he said at a Community Working Group on Health annual meeting this week.

In resettlement areas, some of the land allocated has been abandoned or is not being fully utilised, due to lack of resources such as fertilisers or tractors, and in particular lack of access to credit.

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The fast-track resettlement programme has also endangered food security for the rural population, with the already tight food situation deteriorating further as a result of reduced cereal production and general economic decline, with over four million at risk of food shortages, according to the United Nations.

Chapfika said if resettled land had been fully utilised, Zimbabwe, through exports, would be able to boost the meagre health budget.

The 2016 National Budget allocated the Health and Child Care ministry $330,79 million, representing 8,3 percent of the total budget.

A large share of that allocation, which is already below the 15 percent Abuja target and the sub-Saharan Africa average of 11,3 percent, is earmarked for wage-related costs.

Chapfika said health care is a universal right which should not be the preserve of the wealthy.

According to Section 76 of the Constitution, every Zimbabwean has a right to health care and should not be denied treatment in any health care facility.

The Mutoko South legislator admitted there is insufficient money in the health budget to purchase essential drugs or other medical supplies.

Chapfika also added that by law all persons above 60 years of age and children below five years are entitled to free health care but that is not happening.

“The authorities should attend to such critical issues as the cost of health care in Zimbabwe is still very high. The State has the obligation to provide all this. It is very undesirable for donors to be doing everything all the time,” he said.

Glen View North MDC Member of Parliament Fani Munengami said government has misplaced priorities as it channels resources to non-essential items.

“In one or two months, government can avail resources for by-elections but when it comes to health financing, they are always looking to donors since they claim to have nothing,” he argued.

Health and Child Care ministry planning and donor coordinator Gwati Gwati said: “Soon, we will be tabling before Parliament a sin-tax on smokers and imbibers and show them how much can be raised from it.”

Health economist Prosper Chitambara said more than 11 million Zimbabweans, representing 90 percent of the population, have no access to medical aid.

“Ninety-eight percent of drugs used in public health centres are funded by donors,” he said.

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