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Zimbabwe
Monday, November 30, 2020

Budget should prioritise health service delivery

The 2021 national budget should revitalise the country’s health facilities that have been shocked to the core by the ravaging effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, stakeholders and experts have said.

Zimbabwe together with many African countries and even beyond had their health infrastructure stretched to its full limit by the Covid-19 pandemic which claimed more than 200 lives in the country and saw more than 8 000 people contracting the disease.

Experts and policy-makers have noted that while Zimbabwe is still counting its losses owing to the pandemic, it has been a wake-up call on the need to invest, in a significant way, health infrastructure to mitigate the effects of Covid-19.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube has launched a 2021 Budget Strategy Paper under the Theme  “Building Resilience and Economic Recovery Post Covid-19,” a document expected to guide wider consultations on the upcoming 2021 National Budget.

The 2021 Budget Strategy Paper marks the transition from the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, which is coming to an end this December, paving way for the longer-term National Development Strategy from 2021-2025

Prof Ncube said the Paper is mainly anchored on expected stabilisation of inflation through ongoing policy interventions which should aid restoration of purchasing power of consumers.

Parliament’s portfolio committee on Health and Child Care chairperson, Dr Ruth Labode said Prof Ncube’s 2021 national budget should prioritise retooling health infrastructure in the country.

She said the advent of Covid-19 exposed “in a big way” deficiencies that were public hospitals some of which bordered on Government neglection. “Those are the lessons that we as legislators learnt from Covid-19. We have always in the past called for investment in the health sector. As legislators we want a health system that is not only sound but accessible to every Zimbabwean. We expect the 2021 national budget to provide funding to revitalize public hospitals and pharmacies so that they function in a way responds to expectation,” said Dr Labode.

Addis Ababa based Independent International Public Finance expert, Mr Rongai Chizema said budgeting under the Covid-19 scenario was difficult for Zimbabwe given a biting currency crisis and subdued economic performance lately.

“Covid-19 has brought to the foe the vulnerability of African Govts’ health delivery system, and Zimbabwe has not been spared either. Also, the lockdowns have impacted negatively on societal welfare and business incomes. Bottom-line, national output will shrink significantly with the SMEs, and the informal economy hit hardest given their lack of adequate social security schemes… We therefore, note a significant contraction in GDP which IMF has conservatively posted at 10% for Zimbabwe in 2020 though I project a 30% downturn, given that the pandemic hit when the country was already on a depressed mode given a critical liquidity crunch, and mounting international isolation,” said Mr Chizema speaking from Ethiopia.

 “Unless Agriculture performs well, it will not be that easy.  Even the mining sector which usually kicks in with 30% foreign exchange earnings has been hamstrung by a depressed uptake of commodity exports due to subdued global demand on the back of Covid- 19 in target markets, as global supply chains have been dislocated by the pandemic. On the other hand, Government needs to prioritize pharmaceutical production capacity, so as to build a strong resilient and reliant health system in the country. More resources should be channeled towards restoring social Investment, prioritising health care, social security and education support schemes.”

He said Government invest in production capacity of pharmaceutical products in order to strengthen systems and provide enough social safety nets for diseases such as Covid-19.

“Government needs to prioritize pharmaceutical production capacity, so as to build a strong resilient and reliant health system in the country. More resources should be channeled towards restoring social Investment, prioritising health care, social security and education support schemes,” he said.

Harare based economist, Professor Ashok Chakravat said Government ought to channel resources on the health sector such as infrastructure and training and skills retention.

“Zimbabwe continue to be training ground for other countries because of poor remuneration for health workers such as nurses and doctors. The health infrastructure is not good either. These are some of the issues the 2021 national budget should address,” said Prof Chakravat.

He said there was equal need to focus on agriculture and mining which he said was the anchor of the economy.

Treasury has predicted a growth of 7,5 percent on the back of reduction of the country ’s gross domestic product this year of minus 4,5 percent due to Covid-19.

“In 2021, the economy is predicted to recover from a projected contraction of -4,5 percent in 2020 to a growth of 7,4 percent, driven by consumption (2,6 percent) and investment (5,8 percent) improvements,” said Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube yesterday.

Launching the 2021 Budget Strategy Paper in Harare, a document expected to guide wider consultations on the upcoming 2021 National Budget, the Minister said: “The recovery in consumption is mainly anchored on expected stabilisation of inflation through ongoing policy interventions which should aid restoration of purchasing power of consumers. The stabilisation programme was designed to sort out the major structural fiscal and monetary problems inherited by the Second Republic, with success now seen in stable market-driven exchange rates and resulting low monthly inflation. With the fundamentals fixed and distortions removed, the Government can now switch to rapid economic growth based on real increases in production. Under the theme “Building Resilience and Economic Recovery Post-Covid-19”, the Budget Strategy Paper focusses on strengthening the economy to withstand any potential climatic (drought, cyclones, floods, pests) and macro-economic shocks, as we focus on attaining inclusive and sustainable growth towards Vision 2030.”

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