YESTERDAY we reported two important stories based on a presentation by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube during the International Business Conference at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair on Wednesday.
In the first story, the minister revealed that last year’s US$100 million national budget surplus was behind the successful Covid-19 vaccination programme. In the other story, he revealed that Zimbabwe had surpassed the Abuja Declaration target which requires that countries spend at least 15 percent of their national budgets on the health sector.
Zimbabwe has mainly used its own resources to support the fight against Covid-19 and this has made the country sit among leading nations in Africa when it comes to rolling out vaccines.
Under the Abuja Declaration, African countries are encouraged to commit at least 15 percent of their national budgets on health to foster the sector in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.
The milestones achieved and hard work President Mnangagwa’s Government has put in under Second Republic have been commended by the United Nations, World Health Organisation and other international bodies.
Addressing the International Business Conference Professor Ncube said: “If we did not have the surplus in 2020 of US$100 million, we would have been in deep trouble as a country, we would have not managed to acquire the vaccines. This is an economic recovery strategy and not just a health strategy for saving lives.”
Turning to the Abuja Declaration Professor Ncube said: “We are now watching the budget and we are watching it every day. So far, we have spent just about ZWL$30 billion in that effort. We have got the Abuja target, which says that we must spend at least 15 percent of our budget on health.
“Last year, our budget on health was 20 percent of total expenditure, we have exceeded the Abuja target and if Honourable Labode is here, she is always asking me in Parliament, ‘Minister when are we going to reach the Abuja target’, we have exceeded the Abuja target.
“This year again we will exceed. We want to make sure that it becomes a product of the thing (Covid-19) behind us.”
It must be noted that the national budget surplus and the health budget which is now 20 percent of expenditure are both a direct result of austerity.
Austerity is painful but eventually, the rewards are big. Remember the famous words of 19th Century philosopher John Stuart Mill quoted by Professor Ncube while presenting his first National Budget in 2018?
“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than seeking to satisfy them.”
The happiness of Zimbabweans is Vision 2030. This destination cannot be reached without limiting our desires.
Such profound non-populist wisdom by President Mnangagwa and his Government has already put the country on the global health map.
Agreed, the health sector is not perfect, but a lot has changed under the Second Republic. Central hospitals around the country are getting a facelift, new hospitals like Lupane Provincial Hospital are being built and previously redundant ones like Ekusileni Medical Centre have since been reopened.
The writing is on the wall: the country is on the right path to recovery.