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Zimbabwe govt injects more cash to fight coronavirus

by Stephen Jakes
15 Mar 2020 at 08:45hrs | Views
TREASURY has a $3,2 billion kitty to fund social protection programmes for vulnerable members of society and also bankroll contingency measures against the spread of coronavirus.

The resources were generated from Government's cash surplus position, as authorities continue ramping up ongoing fiscal consolidation measures.

Coronavirus, known as Covid-19, has been spreading rapidly in different parts of the world.

This has heightened calls for authorities in Zimbabwe to step up preventive measures against the pandemic.

Last week, 24 coronavirus cases were recorded in South Africa and with millions of Zimbabweans living in the neighbouring nation, there are fears the disease could spread into the country.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said Zimbabwe's finances were on a sound footing and there were adequate reserves to deal with the coronavirus threat.

"The point that I need to make is that Government is in a cash positive situation. I can say with confidence that the fiscus is well run. We are a solvent Government and currently we have a surplus of $3,2 billion in our accounts. We are going to spend $3,2 billion on key programmes such as the health sector. We need to fight the impact of the coronavirus and we need to put some money into that," he said.

Asked how much would be allocated from the fund to fight Covid-19, Prof Ncube said authorities were still to decide the amounts.

"We need to decide on that. Obviously it's not me alone who has a say. We have to make an assessment with other colleagues in Government and obviously the Ministry of Health has to be involved," he said.

Prof Ncube said outside of the fight against coronavirus, Treasury will also spend the surplus on other undertakings to cushion the public from the harsh economic environment.

Sectors identified for social protection include health, education as well as the welfare of civil servants.

"We are going to spend it on the education sector, we are also going to spend it to meet even the salary demands of civil servants," he said.

In an earlier statement which he presented on Wednesday on the establishment of the currency stabilisation taskforce, Prof Ncube said Government was mindful of the fact that unrestrained increases in money supply were one of the fundamental causes of inflation and the depreciation of the exchange rate.

He noted that hyperinflation prior to 2009 was triggered by failure to achieve fiscal consolidation.

Prof Ncube said fiscal and monetary discipline would be reinforced through maintaining a cash budgeting framework to minimise fiscal deficit so that Government can continue maintaining a surplus to fund its programmes.

To that end, the education sector has already received a boost and on Wednesday, Government said it would pay 53 percent of June and November examination fees for all candidates in public schools following an outcry over increases by the Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (Zimsec).

The unprecedented move will see the State forking out 53 percent of all examination fees for candidates at Government, local authority and mission schools for those sitting for Grade 7, O-Level and A-Level examinations.

"Government is releasing $150 million to Zimsec with immediate effect to get the preparations for the 2020 June and November examinations going and will avail the balance to Zimsec once the total candidature from the public schools for the June and November examinations is ascertained.

"I would now like to advise all parents and guardians of schoolchildren in Grade 7, Ordinary and Advanced Levels that in 2020, Government will be contributing 53 percent of the examination fees for candidates in public schools, while parents and guardians will take up 47 percent," said Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema.

Calls for the enhancement of prevention measures against Covid-19 have been growing and in Parliament last week, legislators advocated for immediate interventions including sanitisers in the August House.

Magunje MP Cecil Kashiri recommended mandatory testing for all MPs and other public officials.

"We as parliamentarians come from different parts of the country. It is prudent that if it were possible through the Minister of Health, we have compulsory testing every week here in Parliament so that we know our status since we sit here three days a week," he said.

In its update on Covid-19, the Ministry of Health and Child Care said as of last Thursday, 8 700 travellers had been screened at ports of entry and put under surveillance.

The ministry also encouraged people to exercise good personal hygiene and avoid unnecessary travel outside Zimbabwe.

Source - Sunday Mail