Business Community Development Health Legal and Parliamentary Affiars

Mobile tax should fund SRHR: Parliamentary Caucus

Mobile tax

By Nhau Mangirazi

The Women Parliament Caucus (ZWPC) has recommended the mobilization of resources towards the sexual and reproductive health rights affecting women and girls in most marginalized communities.

ZWPC chairperson, Hon Goodluck Kwaramba made the presentation last week during a prebudget seminar saying the proportion of the 5 percent mobile airtime levy, introduced in 2017 under the theme, ‘Talk-Surf and Save a Life’, and ring-fenced for the procurement of drugs and medicines “should be devoted to financing free maternity for expecting mothers to enhance access to maternal health while another 10% goes towards the provision of free basic family planning. Regionally, Kenya and Malawi established a dedicated budget line for family planning and Zimbabwe can start with a dedicated proportion of the airtime levy,” said Hon Kwaramba.

She called on the Ministry of Finance to expedite National Health Insurance.

“This must include the informal sector where the majority of women are based. The ZWPC reiterates that the 2023 budget must charge another sin tax on cigarettes and alcohol which should be ring-fenced towards the financing of cancer treatment and procurement of cancer equipment (radiotherapy and chemotherapy facilities) so that they are decentralised from Harare and Bulawayo.

“This tax should be used to progressively purchase the US$10 million machine for every Provincial Hospital. This cancer fund can also be augmented by the tax on products with high sugar content and genetically modified foods. Realising that deaths related to non-communicable diseases like cancer have overtaken HIV/AIDS, the 2023 budget must set the tone for the amendment of the AIDS Levy to revise the rate to 1.5% and dedicate the other 1.5% to Cancer through the enactment of a Cancer Act, ” noted Hon Kwaramba.

Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR), has declined due to the economic crisis affecting the country.

Hon Kwaramba said that the decline to 363 per 100,000 live births in Zimbabwe as of September 2022 is unbearable as one loss of life is too many.

The ZWPC looks forward to the Ministry of Health and Child Care allocating more funds towards improving the deteriorating quality of maternal care in hospitals and clinics.

“Expecting mothers should be given full maternal care kit upon admission in hospital for delivery in line with free maternal care policy,” she said.

Hon Kwaramba added that there is a need for continuous lobbying for tax exemption to make sanitary pads affordable.

“Menstrual cups and period pants must also be exempted from tax. Previous tax exemption did not have a big impact and did not serve its intended purpose due to the hyperinflationary environment,” she said.

Hon Kwaramba suggested that the 2023 budget consider financially capacitating companies that can produce sanitary wear locally.

On family planning pills, Hon Kwaramba noted that they have become unaffordable for women.

“Zimbabwe was 100% dependent on donors for contraceptives. The budget availed annually was 16 million USD for this cause. In May 2021, the UK announced cutting funding for Global Heath disproportionately with SRHR particularly hard hit. As ZWPC, we recommended that the 2023 budget addresses this gap by ensuring a provision for family planning pills to be given for free in all Government hospitals and clinics in both rural and urban areas. As a long-term solution, funding to innovation hubs could also assist to boost local production of contraceptives, ‘ she concluded.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende