By Pretty Chavango
Legislators have told Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa to to at least double the budget allocation for health or risk having his proposed 2018 national budget rejected.
The health sector was allocated about US$408 million from the the budget in 2018 against a proposal of at least US$1.3 billion.
Zimbabwe’s health sector is facing various challenges that range from operation, infrastructure and financing among others issues such as shortage of essential drugs and has had to rely heavily on development partners.
Presenting the Health Committee Report on the 2018 proposed Finace Bill, Binga North legislator Prince Dubeko Sibanda said Parliament should throw away the budget book if their demands are not met or if at least the budget does not meet the Abuja Declaration.
“Coming to the Health Report, this is one of the votes where we agreed as Parliament at our Pre-Budget and Post-Budget Seminars that this budget should not pass until and unless the Ministry of Health and Child Care is given sufficient resources.
“When we are talking of health, I am not talking about health of the Minister or Hon. Members of Parliament. I am talking about health of the common man, who is found in Siabuwa, Murambinda ; in those rural areas. The common person who does not have any source of income, that is the health that we want to take care of. The Hon. Minister can go to Geneva and seek for health services. He can afford that but what about the old men and women who are out there in the rural areas, where do they get money to access health care, unless health care is adequately funded by Treasury,” he said.
Hon Sibanda said if the Finanace Minister is unable to meet the Abuja Declaration guidelines, then he has to at least maintain the 2017 level of health delivery and not go below.
“We recommend that the budget for the Ministry of Health and Child Care must be compliant with the Abuja Declaration. That is, it should comprise of at least 15% of the total budget. Currently it is standing at 5.8%, if we add the $30 or so million from the health levy, the budget does not go beyond 6.2%, that is what the Hon. Minister has allocated. This is actually a reduction from what the Ministry of Health and Child Care was allocated in the previous year. So, we recommend that at least 15% threshold should be achieved.
“In a scenario where the Minister says he does not have fiscal space to reach the 15% threshold, we recommend that in order for us to maintain our health delivery services at the level that they were last year – because the current budget of $408 million that has been allocated is actually reducing the level of /health care that we were giving last year to below what we were giving last year, which means that we want health care to deteriorate beyond the levels that it was last year,” he said.
Speaking on the same motion, Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross also reiterated the same sentiments saying there was no running away from the fact that budget allocation for health needs to be doubled.
“Allocation to health is barely 5.8% of the budget this year, which is simply and totally inadequate. If we can resolve the revenue problems of the Government, I think the health budget must be the first priority we need to double the health budget and we should not shy away from that.
“We cannot run our hospitals with the kind of budget we have got here and we cannot expect our health professionals to work in this kind of environment. As a country, we simply have to make health a bigger priority,” he said.