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‘Prioritise health, devolution and pensioners in 2022 National Budget’

Bulawayo residents have called on the government to increase funding investment into health, devolution and set more funds for pensioners when setting its 2022 national budget.

Participating at the national budget public consultations in Bulawayo Wednesday, residents said the government needed to prioritise the health sector and professionals given the fragilities that were exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic after years of neglect.

“As we are going towards elections, the government will prioritise the security sector yet these are the same security people who come and beat us up while people in our hospitals are dying. When it comes to the health sector, the government should stop indicating left, when it actually wants to turn right. We need more funds in this sector which is recovering from Covid-19, support hospitals, clinics and the workers,” said Jaqueline Ndlovu who urged the government to look towards the ailing health sector.

Residents also pushed the government to adhere to the Abuja Declaration that commits at least 15 percent of the country’s annual budget to improve the health sector.

“The government must consider serious investment in the health sector and meet the Abuja Declaration. For years we have been crying, asking that the government puts this recommendation into practice. The country is currently spending US$21 per person for their health needs, which is a serious drop from the previous US$57 in 2017. The US$21 was seen in 2020 and has stuck yet the world health standards specify that over US$80 must be set for one person. We must aim to spend at least US$40 per person,” said one resident.

Most of the participants said there was a need to improve maternal health for women and girls while providing affordable medication care.

Women participants suggested the government must provide free sanitary ware to young girls or adolescents and contraceptives to females, noting that although “sex was a choice, menstruation was not.”

Mental health was another area that needs massive funding, stated the participants who said each facility in the country must be equipped to deal with mental challenges instead of turning people away.

Yollander Millin from the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) emphasised that more funds should be allocated to devolution in the 2022 national budget.

“People opted for devolution and that stance must be adopted. The ZWL26.7 billion budget allocated towards devolution is not enough to cover its implementation across Zimbabwe. Bulawayo as a city has proposed a 2022 budget of ZWL$24 ,7 billion and when you look at the national budget allocation for devolution it shows you that this money is inadequate,” she said.

A youth, Rose Nyoni, called for more resources towards the provision of clean and portable  water in urban areas.

“The availability of potable water in most Urban local authorities has become a serious issue. Harare is producing 340 megalitres of water per day against a demand of 1200 megalitres per day. Towns like Chitungwiza, Epworth, Norton and Ruwa rely on water supplies from the City of Harare. Furthermore, water supplies continue to be a perennial problem in Bulawayo and other cities in and around Zimbabwe hence the need for increasing fiscal commitment by the government in the 2022 national budget and prioritise the construction of more dams to augment existing water bodies in urban centres,” she said.

Nyoni added, “to this end, there is need to adhere to the eThekwini Declaration and allocate a minimum of 1.5 percent of the national budget towards water.”

Another young person, Everson Phiri, lamented how the art sector was often neglected from national budge allocations.

“More support is needed for the art sector.  Singers, actors and all those in the creative sector must be supported financially. It is difficult to access loans as an artists, say you and your band want to buy a drum set, a bank will say that is not a viable project,” he said.

Sox Mabhena urged authorities to allocate more funds for pensioners, and if possible match their earnings to the current poverty datum line.

Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube is expected to present the upcoming fiscal policy statement next month.

Four teams of the Portfolio Committee on Budget, Finance and Economic Development will conduct public hearings on the 2022 national budget in different areas.

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