RBZ chief admonishes pharmacists

ZIMBABWE’S import bill for medicines runs into over USD200 million annually, a top Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) official said on Saturday.
RBZ Governor Dr John Mangundya said this in a speech read on his behalf by Deputy director Economic Policy Division Dr Nebson Mupunga and Research while addressing pharmacists at the Retail Pharmacists Association (RPA) conference in Harare.
“The Pharmaceutical sector contributes about 0.39% to GDP. The sector has few manufacturing companies which produce about 12 percent of the medicines used locally and importing the rest. On an annual basis, the country imports over US$200 million worth of drugs,” he said.
He warned pharmacies receiving support from the foreign exchange auction trading system against pegging their prices using the parallel market exchange rate, saying such practices destabilise the economy.
According to the Governor, out of the US$2 billion dispensed by the Central Bank through the auction so far, nearly US$132 million has gone towards supporting medical and chemicals imports.
“It is, however, worrisome that despite the support measures, some economic agents, including the retail pharmaceuticals firms have continued to benchmark and index their prices to the unjustified parallel exchange rate. It has been noted that the practice is being deliberately done as a way of discouraging customers from using the domestic currency. “This is taking advantage of the inelastic demand for health care, including pharmaceuticals. Inelastic demand means the public pays whatever the price for the health care, which in the process compromises exchange rate dynamics and affordability of drugs by the majority of the populace” he said.
A survey done by this reporter has shown that retail pharmacies are charging beyond the parallel market exchange rate. A dollar is pegged at ZWL$140.
Pharmacists on the other hand accused the RBZ for delaying the disbursement of forex from the auction system saying there are times they spent two months on the waiting list.
A health economist-cum-pharmacist Ms Nyasha Bandason argued logistical and funding issues as chokepoints crippling the pharmaceutical sector.

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