By Joyce Mukucha
HARARE – In an effort aimed at unpacking the state of service delivery in the country in the context of its failures to be gender responsive, a social justice movement, Action Aid Zimbabwe (AAZ) is hosting an online three-day Tax and Gender Responsive Public Services Summit (GRPS) from today (30th of August) to the 1st of September 2021.
This comes after AAZ has noted with concern that Zimbabwe is experiencing a persistent and gradual decline in public service delivery owing to a crumbled public service delivery system with women and girls being worst affected.
The movement has it that the country’s tax systems remain weak and prone to evasion, a development that has robbed the national purse of substantial revenue.
Kick-started today, the Summit brought together civil society actors, researchers, policy makers and duty bearers to interrogate the current state of public service provision in the country and interrogate how the tax system can be used to improve GRPS provision in Zimbabwe.
The GRPS Summit is mainly focusing on critical sectors of health, education and water, using domestically mobilized resources , recommending ways to improve public service provision and make them gender responsive.
Speaking during the Summit, Johannes Chiminya from AAZ said there was no provision sufficient resources in Zimbabwe and as a result, gender responsive public services were not being delivered.
Referring to a 2014 study by Ernest and Young, Chiminya highlighted that Zimbabwe lost US$101 million in the Platinum Mining Sector as he emphasised that it was crucial for Government to relook on the re-investment pattern and figure out where taxing is going wrong as well as ensure that gender responsive public services are provided.
“The government of Zimbabwe at all levels, local to central, must ensure that revenue raised from taxation is used to progressively finance the provision of quality gender responsive public services.
“The expenditures are higher than the revenues and this is not healthy for our economy, future generation and even the sovereignty of the the nation. For instance, there is no adequate water in Harare thus, the need for government to take effective measures and ensure that there is better taxing which lead to attainment of provision and delivery bof gender responsive resources,” said Chiminya.
Additionally, he stressed that due to globalisation, it was of paramount importance for countries especially Zimbabwe to set real global tax rules as well as embrace updated taxation models such as the UN model.
“As a mechanism, it is crucial to raise the much-needed tax revenue. Unfortunately, Zimbabwe is not involved in the global policies which ensures standardised taxing. According to studies, Zimbabwe is losing IS$2,4 million annually and since 2015, it has lost upto US$670 million. So there is need to use upgraded models such as the UN and ensure that all the big companies are taxed.”
AAZ also noted that whilst provision of basic public services and infrastructure play a critical role in stimulating local and national economic development, trends in Zimbabwe reveal chronic deficits in their provision.
The dilapidating state of service delivery, AAZ reiterated, has left citizens, especially young women, and young people, distressed, and left behind on important national processes.
A representative from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Taungana Ndoro said the Ministry was tirelessly working to ensure that there is inclusivity when it comes to delivering public service education to learners scattered around the ten provinces especially those in urban-distant communities.
“As a ministry, last week we embarked on rural and remote areas encouraging learners who have dropped out of school because of the Covid- 19 pandemic and other reasons which include girls who fall pregnant to return to school. We are making sure that we leave no learner behind including those with disabilities, those with special needs and the vulnerable. We need them to come and tap into quality education,” said Ndoro.
Seconding to this, a Member of Parliament for Gokwe Chireya Constituency, Honourable Torerayi Moyo said that guided by the Sustainable Development Goal #4, the Portfolio Committee on Primary and Secondary Education was committed to ensure that inclusivity prevails making sure that every student despite gender or disability state access quality education and be able to learn in a conducive environment.
“It is our main thrust to ensure that every learn is given a priority to learn. In rural areas, the infrastructure is bad as compared to urban set ups and there is need to ensure that learning rights are not being violated by making sure that distances being walked by learners is cut especially for children who have to walk long distances to reach the nearest Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres.
“There is also need to consider curriculum needs by ensuring that teachers go through sign language training especially these times of the pandemic to guarantee that every learner benefit.”
He also alluded that mineral tax being collected should be used to build clinics, schools as well and drilling of boreholes.
Participating at the discussion, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee for Health and Childcare, Dr Ruth Labode said when it comes to health service delivery, it was vital to ensure that there is fulfillment in the provision of Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights for women and girls.
“There is need to make sure that women and girls benefit from the public health services. To ensure that services are gender responsive, we must make sure that the are publicly funded and delivered.”
She added that when resources are being allocated, it is important to consider provinces that are mainly facing the challenges and allocate the money by needy explaining that providing free martenity and family planning services can help to eradicate problems faced by women.
“For example, vulnerable women and girls are walking very long distances to reach their nearest water points due to inadequate water infrastructure and then they have to walk over 2km to reach their nearest health care facilities,” she said.
Pertaining the country’s tax systems and operations, Dr Labode highlighted that the ministry responsible must find of getting money from Small to Medium Enterprises.
“They made a lot of money and they should be captured in tax collection.”
In line with this, Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association representative, Michael Ndiweni said government ought to think about how it incentivise the informal traders to pay the tax demonstrating how much is going to be reinvested.
“It is important to demonstrate where the money is going and what is it being used for after collection. It is imperative to show how much revenue is being ploughed back, this can help the informal sector to pay tax,” said Ndiweni.
Speaking on behalf of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) Yollander Millin said when it comes to education, inclusivity goes beyond people with disabilities but it also include religion andvsickness which further discriminate learners.
She said it was significant to join hands and create a situation where no one is left behind especially the internal displacement victims reiterating the importance of factoring them in a s ensure that factors of segregation are brought up.
Other participants suggested that there was need for everyone to pay tax that is proportional to their earning indicating that taxes must be used effectively.
Some pointed out that global tax reforms must be transparent and open as they explained that the issue of impunity where violations of Public Financial Management principles is a huge problem that needs to be confronted with no mercy attitude.
Meanwhile, studies on Unpaid Care Work (UCW) and Gender Responsive Public Services (GRPS), carried out by ActionAid Zimbabwe (AAZ) in 2019, have shown that, the provision of public services is continuously taking a nosedive with a rise in privatization and lack of prioritization of public services on the national budget.
This has further piled the burden of UCW on women and children reducing their productive time and hence lessening their access to economic opportunities.
“The provision of public services is continuously taking a nosedive with a rise in privatization and lack of prioritization of public services on the national purse. To the extent that these services are being provided, these studies have further reviewed that they are less gender responsive,”said AAZ.
By Joyce Mukucha