'Health levy to stem drug shortages'

HARARE - Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa says the five percent health levy introduced by government on all air time purchases will improve ordinary citizen’s access to drugs and better health care.

Government began deducting a five percent health levy on all airtime purchases this March which it said would help fund purchases for drugs and equipment for public hospitals.

Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa proposed in his 2017 National Budget to introduce the tax on airtime and mobile data, under the ‘‘Talk-Surf and Save a Life’’ initiative.

“We are happy with the health levy and that money can be used to buy drugs and equipment.

“The money is going into a dedicated account and we have formed a committee to see what the priorities are,” Parirenyatwa told the Daily News.

Currently, 95 percent of the drugs’ stocks come from donors, while government is contributing just five percent.

The levy, pegged at five cents for every dollar of airtime — expected to beef up the $281 million budget allocation for the Health ministry — comes as an added financial obligation for Zimbabwe’s mobile network operators.

Meanwhile, government has cleared a $26 million debt it owed the National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), for medicines procured for public hospitals.

The drug crisis in Zimbabwe had seen major hospitals suspend elective operations last year, with recent revelations that the country was left with only two weeks stock of anaesthetic drugs.

“We are happy that the $26 million debt has been cleared, we had been making repeated appeals to Treasury and now we can be able to move on,” Parirenyatwa said.

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