Zimbabwe in a quandary over what to do with pharmacies selling drugs in US dollars


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Health Minister Obadiah Moyo was yesterday unable to give senators a concrete answer on what the government is doing about pharmacies that are selling essential drugs in United States dollars.

The only solutions he had were long term like capacitating the government Natpharm to produce drugs and sell them directly to the public in bonds notes and electronic money.

Private pharmacies have been selling drugs in United States dollars since the government announced new monetary and fiscal policies on 1 October which saw the bond note and electronic money plunge against the US dollar although the central bank said they were at par.

Moyo said Zimbabwe was negotiating with the national pharmacy of India to procure drugs at no deposit for its Zimbabwean counterpart but this is not likely to offer an immediate solution to people that have to take daily medication like those with diabetes or high blood pressure.

The other solution, also long term, is to provide foreign currency to local pharmaceutical companies like CAPS and Datlabs to manufacture drugs for Natpharm.

Moyo’s dilemma seems to stem from the fact that the government does not want to impose price controls and at the same time it cannot ask people not to sell in United States dollars because they are legal tender and are officially at par with the bond note.

Moyo said his ministry, that of Justice and Finance were working on a solution and will announce it next week after briefing cabinet and getting its approval.

Q &A

+HON. SEN. PHUTI: Thank you Madam President for giving me this opportunity.  My question is directed to the Minister of Health and Child Care.  During the budget presentation, we complained that most of the medication that we are getting in the pharmacies is now being sold in United States Dollars.  You had promised that the situation would change but nothing has changed so far.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI) on behalf of THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND CHILD CARE: I would like to thank the Hon. Member for the question and indeed the Minister of Health and Child Care has spoken about the availability of drugs in Bulawayo at the pre-budget seminar.  The Government intends to capacitate our own local company NATPHAM to have drugs so that they can be distributed.  So, we are in the process of ensuring that NATPHAM gets foreign currency so that they can import directly from some manufacturers and one of them is India.  This way, the situation of drug supply in the country will be stabilised.

We have realised that if we concentrate on giving foreign currency to private players, some of them are diverting the foreign currency and we did not have a mechanism to monitor how the foreign currency usage was going on.

However, the Minister of Health and Child Care has just walked in and I will request him to add on from there.

Continued next page

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The Insider

The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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