Fairer taxation can curb health inequalities

Crude death rate, maternal mortality, pre-natal mortality, neonatal mortality, child mortality can all be on the rise if primary health care is not as robust as expected.

Health and development are symbiotic in nature and no country can boast of development when health is absent.

A health individual is a productive soul who will contribute significantly to the gross domestic product through products and services in a country. 

Many poor countries are still miles away from solving the issue of health inequalities and twisted equity and the consequences can be so dire that there is high morbidity and mortality. 

Crude death rate, maternal mortality, pre-natal mortality, neonatal mortality, child mortality can all be on the rise if primary health care is not as robust as expected.

The health sector is touted as one of the most important sectors in the world and in 2001, African countries convened in Abuja, Nigeria where they recommended that for countries to stand firmly in terms of health service delivery, at least 15% of the national fiscus should be allocated to the health sector. 

This means about 1/7 of the entire national budget and that stance showed how significant the health sector is in any country.

Zimbabwe has failed to reach the 15% mark for the past years and in 2022, 2023 and 2024, the budgetary allocations were 10.6%, 11.2% and 10.8% respectively. 

With the emergence of Covid-19 and post-Covid-19 syndrome, the menacing HIV and Aids, malaria, Tuberculosis, cholera outbreak, the 10,8% allocation for 2024 is significantly little.

The year 2024 is riddled with taxes as the country attempts to increase revenue domestically.

There has been reduced foreign direct investment and the country has been under financial sanctions from international monetary institutions.

The creditworthiness of the country has been under scrutiny as the country is grossly indebted with more than US$15 billion on the debt calendar.

The macroeconomic factors are against the smooth sailing of the country with high inflation rate, high interest rates, painful taxation, high unemployment rate which render the country unattractive for investment.

The health sector is not spared from the harsh macroeconomic environment and recently, there was a serious outcry from health practitioners when many medical commodities started to attract some unbearable taxes.

It caught many citizens by surprise when medical commodities like spectacles, wheelchairs, crutches, ambulances are now attracting some unbearable taxes.

Ambulances are now having a surcharge of 35%, 5% duty and 15% value added tax, figures which are not only extortionate but will worsen our health service delivery.

It remains a pipeline dream if we are ever going to achieve universal health coverage in a short time to come.

Whoever buys the heavily-taxed ambulances will be forced to transfer the costs to patients thus further aggravating the already dire health service situation.

It may result in increased consultation tariffs, higher admission charges at clinics and hospitals, higher ambulance charges and increased drug costs, among others.

If a country is to attain an affordable health service, the obvious cost-drivers should be nipped in the bud and taxation is one such which should be given special consideration amongst interest rates, levies, drug costs and general economic stability.

It is a taboo to achieve health equalities and equity in our country where many people are unemployed and are not insured.

The out-of-pocket health financing mechanism is not brawny when many people are not liquid as de-industrialisation takes centre stage in a country like Zimbabwe.

The public health system is not as strong as expected in the country as many factors continue to hamper progress in the country.

There is massive brain drain at the moment with thousands of healthcare workers flocking to Europe to seek better survival chances.

The understaffing in clinics and hospitals is a serious cause for concern yet many citizens of the country cannot afford to access private health care.

Our health service delivery needs serious attention with friendly national policies that do not suffocate the already-incapacitated health sector.

Taxation is one area that needs consideration. 

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