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Telcos to bankroll Zimbabwe's Health Fund

Telcos to bankroll Zimbabwe's Health Fund

Zimbabwe telecommunications companies are in for another fiscal whammy - a new 5 cents levy on every US$1 worth of airtime and data top ups which will go into a Health Fund to resource the country's ailing health delivery sector.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said on Thursday that the ICT sector's budget allocation of US$17.1 million will be utilised to develop e-government platforms, although US$4.3 million will go towards employee and operational costs.

The government has parastatals presiding over fixed and mobile companies TelOne and NetOne, among other ICT firms such as Zarnet which has snapped up majority control in Telecel Zimbabwe.

"The ... allocations will be complemented by resources mobilised from statutory funds, US$11.7 million, parastatals' own resources of US$26.9 million and US$87.4 million from loan financing," Chinamasa said, reading out the 2017 budget statement.

However, mobile operators in Zimbabwe are set have an additional fiscal burden on their revenues and this time it has come in the form of a levy on airtime top ups for voice and data. The government is also forcing mobile operators in Zimbabwe to reduce tariffs for voice telephony services.

"The government will levy 5 cents on every US$1 of airtime and mobile data into the Health Fund," he said.

The resources raised under this fund, he added "will be ring-fenced for the purposes of drugs and equipment for hospitals" across the country. The government recently stopped promotions the Zimbabwean telcos were running.

The country's health delivery sector has collapsed owing to financial constraints, with drug shortages and equipment outages now common while public health workers have had to resort to strike actions to demand payment of salaries.

In addition to the new Health Fund, telcos in the country also contribute to the Universal Services Fund (USF).

"The Universal Services Fund will earmark US$11.7 million towards the setting up of 70 Community Information centres in rural service centres, roll out of computerisation and e-learning facilities to 1 300 schools, and introduction of tele-medicine facilities in 20 rural health centres," said Chinamasa.

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