Pharmacies should desist from profiteering

DEBATE is raging on whether all developments on the market are backed by any economic fundamentals or it’s a matter of economic sabotage or arbitrage on the part of manufacturers and service providers.

Following the unjustified price increases in October that saw the country’s inflation rate for the month jumping to 20,9 percent from 5,4 percent, according to the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency, many Zimbabweans are asking what the role of pressure bodies, Parliament  and Government is when ordinary people are exploited in their presence.

According to ZimStat, the year-on-year inflation rate for October as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI) stood at 20,85 percent, gaining a record 15,46 percentage points on the September 2018 rate of 5,39 percent since dollarisation.

This means that prices as measured by the all items CPI increased by an average of 20,85 percent between October last year and October 2018.

The CPI for the month ending October 2018 stood at 118,73 compared to 101,97 in September 2018 and 98,24 in October 2017.

ZimStats data used for the latest inflation collation was collected during the period covering five days around October 15, 2018. As such, last month saw prices of most consumer goods and services sky-rocketing to levels last witnessed before dollarisation.

There are reports that players in the pharmaceutical industry, like their counterparts in the petroleum industry have been receiving foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and reasons of selling drugs in foreign currency is yet to be explained.

Some simple drugs like pain killers that were sold for $1 since dollarisation in 2009o until the recent spike in prices last month, under unexplained reasons, went up to between $4 and $5 in US dollars terms.

On average this reflects an increase of over 300 percent in US dollars and we are yet to hear authorities engaging stakeholders to understand what might be the challenge for them to effect such huge commodity price increases in hard currencies.

The story becomes heart-rending in cases of people undergoing specialist medical procedures who are confronted by costs demanded by specialist physicians and prices of drugs and other consumables that are priced in hard currency.

The dilemma befalling the country is inasmuch as the little foreign currency generated by some companies that are still exporting is being given to some pharmaceutical companies to import drugs, why is it all of them are charging inflated prices in foreign currency?

If indeed these companies are abusing the foreign currency being received from the central bank, going forward the authorities should suspend their allocations. We suggest that the money be channelled to public pharmaceuticals to bring in tonnes of drugs and stock public hospital pharmacies.

But those private players assisted by Government to import the drugs, but abused the facility should not go unpunished given that some critical areas were deprived of this essential resource.

Inasmuch as some players might argue that currency rates are freely floating, taking advantage of a desperate situation the country is in should not be tolerated.

In a revolution many souls at times are sacrificed and in this particular case in point it will not be counterproductive to rid the country of saboteurs even if it means we remain with a few patriotic and honest companies.

We cannot attain health for all if we have players in the medical field who vowed to save lives through their selfless practices become destroyers of life through their uncouth practices.

We therefore salute Government for entering into deals with the Indian government and other key players from the Asian country to supply medical drugs. We also implore the Government to quickly move in and allow Indian drugs firms and others from elsewhere to set bases in Zimbabwe.

There is nothing wrong in Government offering incentives such as concessionary rates and tax holidays for foreign companies to invest in this sector as the lost revenue can be recouped elsewhere.

We want to believe the austerity measures Government is implementing are not targeting vulnerable people only and if they are to work, everyone including corporates should be affected.

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