By Matabeleland North Correspondent
VICTORIA FALLS-Health and Child Care Minister Costantino Chiwenga says government should introduce taxes on beer and cigarettes to raise money for medical services.
Chiwenga, who is also the country’s vice president, said this will help avoid overtaxing every citizen.
He was speaking during a pre-budget seminar for parliamentarians in Victoria Falls where he was the guest of honour.
“The ministry is proposing that a certain percentage of the Zinara funds be ring-fenced to finance health services such as purchasing of 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,” Chiwenga said.
Chiwenga said the taxes shall be collected from the source, were manufacturers will be asked to furnish government with details of quantities made.
“I am saying we cannot collect a two percent tax from non-users of these things. So let’s have a cent from alcohol, cigarettes and Zinara fees, to fund national health services,” said Chiwenga.
He challenged Finance and Economic Development minister Mthuli Ncube to honour the Abuja Declaration where African states agreed to commit at least 15 percent of national budget for health services.
The ministry was allocated 13 percent in the 2021 budget.
Chiwenga made the proposal in response to parliamentarians who had proposed that treasury should introduce a 1,5 percent cancer levy across all sectors of the economy to fund cancer related medical needs.
Cancer has become a threat to humanity with numerous cases especially of cervical and prostate cancer.
Legislators were also concerned that the country’s health system has been dependent largely on donor funding.
Chiwenga said while it is true that health relied on donor funding, government had increased funding of the sector from US$287 in 2014 to US$949,3 million in 2020.
Chiwenga said government is construction hospitals and other health facilities countrywide to reduce distance travelled to the nearest health facility.