Govt raises $30m from airtime tax

Over $30 million was collected in the first nine months of the year under the Health levy, which is funded through a 10% charge on airtime.

BY VENERANDA LANGA

Secretary in the Ministry of Health Gerald Gwinji on Tuesday told Parliament that the levy last year had raised $11,4 million.

“Of the $11,4 million collected in 2017, a total of

$10 625 093 went towards pharmaceuticals and $876 254 towards vaccines,” Gwinji said.

“The cash releases from Treasury from January to September 2018 stand at $30 618 686, and the payments to date from that amount were $21 790 480, with the expenditure going towards blood and blood products ($4 765 135), dialysis ($4 291 106), medical equipment ($4 352 700), medical gas ($1 644 555), and pharmaceuticals (6 736 982).”

But Gwinji said from the 10 cents per dollar collected towards the Health Levy, the Health Ministry only got 50% of the amount while the rest went to Treasury.

He projected that the levy will collect around $49 million next year.

This comes at a time when the Community Working Group on Health’s executive director, Itai Rusike, said health funding showed an over-reliance on donors who accounted for a quarter of the health spend.

He said relying on donors was not good as funding was unreliable, unpredictable, unsustainable, and highly dependent on the political environment.
Rusike said the other main sources of health financing in the country were employers (28,4%) and households (25%).

“The Free User fee Policy for pregnant women, under-fives and those aged 65 years and above, has not been backed by resources, resulting in over-crowding at the referral centres. Moreover, the blanket cover does not look at the ability to pay,” he said.