By Alois Vinga
Zimbabwe must invest more on safety nets to cushion vulnerable groups against the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the economy, a leading economist has said.
Prosper Chitambara, said areas such as public health and provision of water and sanitation need to be prioritised.
“Government has a greater role to play in terms of cushioning citizens from the poverty bracket,” Chitambara said in an interview.
“Scaling up social protection spending is one such strategy, which can easily salvage the nation.
“Areas in need of targeting are public health expenditure, and water and sanitation.
“These are critical sectors especially during times of crisis as they enhance socio-economic resilience.
“It is even more important especially considering that the economy is more informal with millions of workers in that sector operating without cover.”
He also urged the government to consider a “democratic developmental welfare state model” which accepts and strongly advocates the role of the State in the economic sphere for promoting the socio-economic welfare and common interests of society.
Chitambara said State planning and organised efforts were essential for rapid industrialisation, economic growth and socio-economic development.
“The welfare State can provide various types of social services for the people, like education, health, employment, social security and public distribution system.
“It acts as the agency for promoting desired social change and development,” Chitambara said.
The economist said in terms of welfare expenditure, Zimbabwe was far below regional and international benchmarks.
Chitambara said according to the 2019 Labour Force Survey, only two percent of Zimbabweans were covered by social security.
“Such figures indicate that our country needs to do more if the poverty figures are to improve for the better,” he added.
Last month, the World Bank said 49 percent of Zimbabweans were now classified as extremely poor.
In its Zimbabwe economic update titled: Overcoming Economic Challenges, Natural Disasters, and the Pandemic: Social and Economic Impacts, the World Bank said the number of extremely poor citizens now stood at 7,9 million.
The Bretton Woods institution said its surveys conducted last year showed that nearly 500,000 Zimbabwean households had at least one member who lost his or her job.