BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
VICE-PRESIDENT Constantino Chiwenga, who is also Health minister, has proposed a sin tax for the 2022 national budget, which will raise the prices of cigarettes and alcohol, to help finance the health sector.
Chiwenga proposed that beer drinkers and cigarette smokers be taxed more in order to enable the country to improve its dilapidated health system.
Presenting a position paper on the 2022 national budget at a pre-budget seminar held in Victoria Falls, Chiwenga also proposed to divert some Zinara funds to the Health ministry to avoid overtaxing the already overstretched citizens.
“The ministry is proposing that a certain percentage of the Zinara funds be ring-fenced to finance health services such as purchasing ambulances required in cases of road traffic accidents and the treatment of victims of accidents requiring hospitalisation,” Chiwenga said.
“It is also proposed that a certain number of cigarettes be reserved for financing health, for example, for every five packets sold one goes to the national health services. With regards to alcohol, a certain number of bottles should contribute to financing healthcare services. So let us have a cent from alcohol, cigarettes and Zinara fees, to fund national health services.”
The VP said alcohol and cigarette manufacturers would be directly taxed depending on the quantities of the manufactured products.
His remarks came at a time when the Health ministry is experiencing massive brain drain. The country is also grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, poor health infrastructure, and shortages of drugs and equipment at hospitals.
Chiwenga was responding to issues raised by the public during countrywide public consultations on the 2022 budget who had told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube should increase allocations of the health levy from 5% to 10% of the 2022 budget.
In his statement at the seminar, Ncube promised that government would increase funding towards production of medical supplies locally.
“I take note of the observation that health funding especially for procurement of critical medical supplies including traditional vaccines, tuberculosis drugs, anti-retroviral drugs, among others is heavily dependent on development partner support.
“To reinforce the restructuring of the health sector in the 2022 budget, government will increase funding to the sector through focus on promoting local production of some medical supplies while increasing support towards research and development. Such efforts will be undertaken within the context of increasing government funding to the sector towards the Abuja Declaration of 15% of the national budget,” Ncube said.
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