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


THE HON. PRESIDENT OF SENATE: Thank you Hon. Ziyambi.  For the benefit of the House, all the Senators might need to know what is happening about the drugs.  So, I will give Hon. Sen. Phuti a chance to repeat her question.

+HON. SEN. PHUTI: Thank you Madam President for the opportunity that you have given me once again.  I want to ask Hon. Minister of Health that during the Pre-Budget Seminar you said that the rate for United States Dollar (US$) and bond note were the same but we now realise it is not the same.  You indicated that most pharmacies were selling drugs using US$ and you promised that that issue will be looked into.  It is now a week after we came back from the Pre-Budget seminar, what is it that the Government is doing so that they can follow up on the people who are demanding payment in US$?

*THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AND CHILD CARE (HON. DR. O. MOYO): Thank you Madam President.  This issue of selling drugs in US$, it is an issue which is also troubling us as a Ministry, because we were thinking that all the pharmacies should sell their drugs with the currency which is readily available.  The money which is out of supply is US$, so it does not help that the currency that is not available is the one that they are asking people to pay.  Moreover, for that foreign currency to be found, it is very difficult.  Our relatives in the rural areas cannot afford those drugs because they cannot get hold of the US$.

We are encouraging as the Ministry of Health that all the pharmacies should understand so that they accept the bond notes, RTGs, medical aid cards as well as swipe, that is what we are encouraging them.  As of now, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) does not have enough US$ but we are also pleading with them that from the few US$ that they have, they should watch closely those whom they give the money – whether they are using that money for drugs or they divert it for other uses.

What we are seized with at the moment is that – Cabinet has set up a Committee which will investigate on how foreign currency is being used.  If it is for drugs, it should be channeled towards that; if it is for retail, pharmacies that have been given money should use it accordingly.  If they are given US$100, they should account for that amount.  If it is a wholesaler which has been given, they should also be accountable as well as manufacturers.

I would also like you to know that we want to move on to manufacture our own drugs here in Zimbabwe.  From the allocation we are going to get, we will buy raw materials to give CAPS and Datlabs for them to manufacture drugs; they will account for the money that they will be given.  After they manufacture, we will send those drugs to National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm).  NatPharm does not have enough drugs in their warehouses as of now.  We told NatPharm that we want to do a re-stocking exercise.  We want to fill their warehouse with drugs.

The first step we have taken is we talked with people in India; by the way, about 80% of our drugs come from India.  We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with India and this morning I was with the Indian Ambassador and he was telling me about the arrangement between our NatPharm company and an equivalent NatPharm in India, so that we can get drugs from companies in India without paying deposits.

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Charles Rukuni
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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