Populist policies won’t take us anywhere

THE recent directive by Health minister David Parirenyatwa compelling public health institutions to include expecting mothers among groups of people eligible to receive free medication, is a welcome development, but appears more of a Zanu PF vote-buying gimmick than a humanitarian gesture, considering that it is coming just a few months before a major election.

Before that, only children under five years and senior citizens aged 65 and above were entitled to the benefit.

While at face value, the policy appears quite humane considering the vulnerability of the targeted groups, its timing raises eyebrows given the Zanu PF government’s propensity to introduce costly populist policies on the eve of a major poll to woo voters to its side.

Our fear is that the move would push most public hospitals to the brink and compromise health service delivery, given that user fees paid by patients normally subsidised hospitals’ operational costs.

Examples abound of government populist policy moves that have turned detrimental to the economy.

While this health policy is not entirely new, as it was once implemented at independence in 1980 with support from an Act of Parliament, successive Zanu PF governments had shelved it due to funding challenges.

In the run-up to the 2008 elections, former President Robert Mugabe ordered hospitals to offer free treatment to children under five years and adults above 65 years without the support of an Act of Parliament — a move seen as meant to undercut the opposition ahead of the polls.

As if that was not enough, the 2013 Local Government ministry policy directive compelling all local authorities to write-off residents’ unpaid bills on the eve of the harmonised elections also raised many eyebrows.

Several, if not all, local authorities are yet to recover from that directive.

Our scepticism with the latest health policy directive is premised on the fact that just a month ago, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa announced his 2018 National Budget statement, where the health sector came a distant fifth in terms of priority, with a measly allocation of $454 million.

Of that vote, $297 million is earmarked for employment costs, while $119 million would be for operations and maintenance.

Prior to that, Parirenyatwa had proposed a $1,3 billion budget for his ministry to run smoothly, probably even without charging user fees.

But Chinamasa saw it fit to slash the ministry’s allocation to a bare minimum.

We then wonder how Parirenyatwa hopes to bridge the gap arising from withdrawal of user fees.

At this stage, we cannot, as a country, take such risks and unsustainable gamble of making reckless policy pronouncements in the hope that donors would chip in and fill the funding gaps created by such moves.

We hope Parirenyatwa did not make the move just to show his new principal that he has done something within his first 100 days in office.

With elections just five months or so away, more such ill-advised policy pronouncements cannot be ruled out.

Related posts:

14 Comments

  1. This is where Zimbos get it wrong. This reporter is not even part of cabinet let alone a junior officer in government and wants to tell Gvt how they should go about running the affairs of the country. How do you know if government has managed to mobilize the much needed resources for smooth operation of the health delivery system?

    1. Tell us then how the costs are going to be absorbed and by who?

      1. there is a health fund every $1 airtime 5% is going towards thats.thats the fund thats subsidising the health sector.

    2. Ndafunga dande, If you can’t see that this a blatant populist move then I have a lot of doubt on your ability to think objectively. How do you think the government will fund this when everyone and their dog knows that this government is broke and has a huge budget deficit? Stop living in dreamland and see what this move it really is.

      1. Cry my Beloved Country

        Mr Leatherface, Your biggest downfall is your short sight and your painting of everyone with the same brush and paint. Mnangagwa is not Mugabe and Mugabe is not Mnangagwa. If you are lucky to be in employment now, I can assure you that more than half the time you will be at work you’ll be doing stuff that you don’t want to do but simply because your boss has directed you to do it. If you decide otherwise, you will surely loose your job. Are you aware that US$100 million has been mobilised for Zim Alloys and the company opened its doors again on Tuesday 2 January 2018. 300 employees who lost their jobs several years ago are back at work and can now sustain their families’ livelihoods.

        I want to repeat that Zimbos are their own enemies. Give the new dispensation a chance. They everyone’s support and the same goes for you Leatherface. You don’t just need to think outside the box, but further away from the box.

        1. THE ZIMALLOYS ISSUE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NEW DISPENSATION. I HAVE FOLLOWED THIS FROM WITHIN, MUGABE OR NO MUGABE THEY WERE STILL GOING TO OPEN ON THE SAID DATE. BIG OPERATIONS LIKE THAT DO NOT JUST START OPERATING OVERNIGHT JUST BECAUSE OF A CHANGE OF POLITICAL GUARD

  2. If President ED doesn’t solve popular problems then he is the same as Mugabe. If he hears our cries for subsidised critical services then he is vote buying. Whats so wrong with him doing his job? When should the President have done that given that he was inaugurated in November? Lets not criticise everything governmental simply because we have voices. Parirenyatwa explained clearly how the airtime and donor funds allow for user fees to be reduced amongst other things…

  3. The last time mobs were let loose to take over farms and land, it was hailed as a great victory and empowerment, until you start taking stock of the downstream domino effect this has had on the economy which we all can now see and feel.

    If medicines were expensive and difficult to obtain when people paid for them, how can they suddenly be cheap and available when people no longer pay anything?

  4. Irresponsible reporting. Chinamasa created a fund yema 5% airtime ye health fund kunova ndiko kurikubva mari iyiii. There was no need to give the health sector a big budget as he had created a revenue stream for them. The same he did to the sport industry,they will be getting revenue from e levy from the soccer betting shops.You are a very ignorant journalist. If populist policies are helping improve the lives of ordinary people on the street then l will surely vote for such a government.

  5. Thank you edsonkanyenge for reminding those who have forgotten the 5% from the airtime bought buy individuals. That fund is a revenue base for the health sector.

  6. Above all we are all Zimbabweans, a holistic approach is needed when dealing with issues, i was at Harare hospital recently women being detained in a crowded room with thier tiny babies for failing to pay Hospital bills this is a real challenge.Some have to runaway,no employment means no money to pay bills that is what we call economic cycle.Remember its not all people not paying but the disadvantage and the critical group of women on national duty.Thumps up for the gvt

  7. Timothy Thorton

    Our problem is commenting on things that we are totally ignorant about. The role of government is to take money from the rich and give it to the poor. If this reporter does not know where government gets his money, he can obviously not understand the complexity of government operations and would do the public a favour by avoiding areas he is not schooled in. Why is he commenting instead of reporting?

  8. The reporter is spot on! There is no doubt this policy is not well thought out. Health consumption among the groups is ever on the rise and is the biggest is the biggest expenditure group. Since the introduction of the 5% airtime revenue stream evidence on ground from the country’s major hospitals reveal a very urgent need because of dilapidated infrastructure, policy ad personnel including the system manager, the Hon Minister himself. All these key areas require urgent overhaul. A recent visit by the first lady has shown clearly that Min Pari is out of depth with his portfolio and since his elevation has witnessed a sharp decline in both quality, breath and inventiveness in resolving complex health matrices the nation has been facing. He is simply riding on his late father’s past glory and beyond that he is a visible candidate for demotion. For him to list increase in life expectancy when death rates from common treatable ailments are rising is fooling ordinary folks. Anyone interested in getting true facts just visit Pari, Harare, UBH and Mpilo or any other provincial hospitals and see the decay in play. In fact, walking along the corridors of Pari from Casualty, you are greeted with a strong smell of death, yes I mean it, death not life.

  9. THE ZIMALLOYS ISSUE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE NEW DISPENSATION. I HAVE FOLLOWED THIS FROM WITHIN, MUGABE OR NO MUGABE THEY WERE STILL GOING TO OPEN ON THE SAID DATE. BIG OPERATIONS LIKE THAT DO NOT JUST START OPERATING OVERNIGHT JUST BECAUSE OF A CHANGE OF POLITICAL GUARD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.