Source: Traffic accidents hit economy | The Financial Gazette June 15, 2017
ROAD traffic accidents are having a negative impact on Zimbabwe’s economy, costing the country US$406 million annually, the equivalent of 2,9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a government document seen by the Financial Gazette indicates.
Zimbabwe’s GDP is estimated at US$14 billion and is projected to grow by over three percent this year following a good farming season.
The loss from road accidents translates into a huge economic toll on the financially troubled southern African country.
The document, which was authored by the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development after a directive from Cabinet, seeks to assess if there is a compelling need by government to introduce a Road Disaster Fund (RDF) to assist surviving accident victims with medication and rehabilitation.
The fund will be mainly financed by a fuel levy whose magnitude is yet to be determined.
Director for transport management in the Ministry of Transport, Allowance Sango, confirmed that the ministry had produced the document, saying Cabinet ordered the Ministry to craft it following the deadly Mvuma bus disaster which claimed 31 lives and injured many others last month.
Last week’s horrific bus crash, which killed 43 people and left 24 injured along the Harare-Chirundu highway could compel government to fast-track the introduction of the RDF.
The document borrows from studies that started in Barcelona, Spain in 2010 to determine the economic cost of road traffic accidents, he said.
The impact of accidents on the economy had been found to be the most effective way to establish the loss caused by accidents, Sango said.
“Zimbabwe’s GDP for 2015 was US$14 billion; therefore US$406 million was consumed by accident-related health obligations,” said the document.
It added: “An estimate of the total national cost of road accidents will help government to realise the heavy economic losses being incurred annually. This will help in coming up with data-based policy interventions.”
The document also urges government to invest in road infrastructure in order to secure the safety of road users.
“The government must therefore try to reduce these losses by providing road safety improvements and should see expenditure on roads safety as an investment and not as a cost. The injuries and fatalities, which occur as a result of road traffic accidents, have serious implications for the country, not just in economic terms but socially as well,” reads the document.
The cost analysis was based on the costs of hospital admissions, ambulance, autopsies, specialised health care, police, fire-fighting, roadside assistance, adapting to disability and productivity loss due to hospitalisation, death or sick leave of the injured or their caregivers. The costs also include material and administrative costs.
The ministry relied on data obtained from major referral hospital registries, the Traffic Safety Council, insurance companies and other sources.
An additional fuel levy will raise the price of the country’s fuel, which is already more costly than in neighbouring country.
Sango said the document would only be made available after its adoption by Cabinet.
“We were directed by Cabinet to do that. The thinking of government is that the fund should be in place as soon as possible. To that effect, we have been to other regional countries like Botswana and South African who already have the fund in place to explore further issues.
“This is to show that government is gravely concerned by the lack of support for injured crash victims who fail to access medical attention. Some even die after spending hours bleeding on the accident scene because there is no one to attend to them. The fund seeks to address those issues by making sure we place fully equipped clinics along the country’s major roads.”
Sango said the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Jorum Gumbo, was expected to table the document in Cabinet before the end of this month.
Zimbabwe has struggled to keep pace with requirements of global agreements, most notably the 2009 Moscow Declaration on road safety on which basis the United Nations General Assembly declared a Decade of Action for Road Safety (2011-2020).
During this year’s edition of the UN Global Road Safety Week, which had special focus on speed and what can be done to address this key risk factors for road traffic deaths and injuries, the World Health Organisation announced that the global road traffic death toll for 2016 stood at 1,3 million, with 50 million injuries.
While there was a marked reduction in deadly crashes in developed countries owing to successful implementation of the Moscow Declaration, there was marked increase in fatal crashes in developing countries.