By Ndafadza Madanha
GOVERNMENT will effect from next year introduce a five percent levy on airtime and data to set up the health fund levy.
Presenting his budget statement minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa said funds accrued from the levy will be ring fenced to purchase drugs and medical equipment for public hospitals and clinics.
Most public hospitals and clinics are battling to provide services to patients as they are out stock of medicines while machinery is antiquated.
The situation has forced patients requiring medical attention for life threatening diseases as heart problems, cancer and kidney complications to seek services in foreign countries.
Compounding issues is the measly allocation the health ministry continues to receive under the budget vote resulting in government relying on donor support to prop up health facilities in the country.
“Government aims to attain the highest possible level of health and quality of life for all citizens as this allows full participation in the economic development of the economy.
In order to attain this vision, every citizen has to access comprehensive and effective health services. However, the shrinking tax base has constrained.
Government’s capacity to invest in the public health delivery system which is now being augmented with resources from development partners.
This situation is not sustainable as developments partners are also experiencing budget constraints, hence, have reduced their support.
This has been compounded by medical practitioners who now demand cash payments before providing the required services, due tonone or delayed remittances by medical aid schemes.
Consequently, the majority of the patients fail to access health services.
The continued reliance on a shrinking formal tax base to fund critical sectors such as health is no longer sustainable, for both the taxpayer and Government.
It is, therefore, critical that all economically active individuals contribute towards funding health services.
It is, thus, proposed to introduce a health fund levy of 5 cents for every dollar of airtime and mobile data, under the theme, ‘Talk-Surf and Save a Life’.
The resources raised will be ring-fenced for the purchase of drugs and equipment for public hospitals and clinics.The above measure takes effect from 1 January 2017,” said Chinamasa in his budget statement.
Efforts to get comment from the three mobile operators on the impact of the pronouncement on their operations were fruitless as they said government had not formally communicated with them.
“Telecel has not had any formal communication regarding the proposed 5 cent increment for every dollar spent on airtime and mobile data and until we have been given a precise position from the Government and the Regulator only then will we be able to outline our own position,” said Telecel PR, CSR and Sponsorship manager Francis Chimanda.