Controversy over removal of health, drug price subsidies

A post on Twitter claimed that Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim directed the removal of subsidies on medicines. on November 19, 2022. The minister who is also the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) quickly denied the fake news, from his official account on Twitter saying “This is an outright lie”.

Why it matters

The press service at the finance ministry told Sudan Tribune that Ibrahim stressed “the need to provide all health services free of charge, and announced an increase in health spending in the 2023 budget. He called to direct financial resources for prevention in order to reduce diseases and epidemiology.

Where did the confusion come from?

Among others, the workshop recommended: “to provide free treatment services, distribute them fairly, and divert support from medical supplies to free treatment, and health insurance.”

In his speech to the workshop, Minister of Health Haitham Ibrahim praised the “free treatment” program, under which the state bears the cost of treating patients (kidneys, heart and tumours) and providing medicine through the National Medical Supply Fund.

Further, an official in the Ministry of Finance, confirmed to Sudan Tribune that the recommendation to transfer support from medical supplies to the free treatment program was requested by the National Fund for Medical Supplies (NFMS).

The same fund requested to end the subsidy for imported medication, a measure that would lead to raising drug prices.

The workshop, also, decided to end support for imported medication prices through a special exchange rate for the dollar. Due to the complicated procedures to get this subsidy, the fund says that the huge debts to international firms make it difficult to purchase medicine.

NFMS officials declined to speak to Sudan Tribune about the recommendations of the workshop. They said that they prefer to wait for the conclusions of a specialized committee formed to deal with the recommendations.

Nonetheless, the joint committee endorsed all the recommendations of the workshop, according to a statement issued by the health ministry on November 22, 2022.

Sudan allocates (9%) of the national budget to the healthcare sector, by supporting life-saving medicines and rehabilitating and building rural hospitals, and health centres. However, the Ministry of Health calls to raise funding to 15% of the budget.

Surrounded by fake news

“The Finance Ministry is facing a major media challenge: the ministry and its minister are targeted with a flood of fake news. This situation led to the formation of an internal committee to address this dilemma and its negative effects,” an official at the ministry told Sudan Tribune under the cover of anonymity.

The official added that Ibrahim’s political background and his difference with the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) contributed to confusion about statements and attempts to distort them.

“Today, the Ministry of Finance suffers from mixing the professional with the politician, the national institution with the person of the minister and his political positions,” he stressed.

He pointed out that the media and users of social media criticized plans and projects prepared by technicians, and professionals, according to scientific insights and foundations, because the one who presents or expresses them is Gibril Ibrahim.

Ibrahim backed the October 25, 2021 coup that toppled the FFC civilian government. Also, he and his allies of the “Democratic Bloc” rejects a draft transitional constitution calling to form a civilian government and call the repeat a partnership with the military in line with the 2019 constitutional declaration.

He, Minnawi and their allies face huge criticism every time they post messages on social media.

On multiple occasions, his group the Justice and Equality Movement has complained that its leader has been a target for criticism based on political stances.

Political analyst Abdallah Rizk said this situation is not limited to the armed groups that supported the coup of General al-Burhan.

“This is a general situation that almost applies to everyone. Here I refer to the coordinated attacks that the FFC have been subjected to by rival political forces, he added.

Source: Sudan Tribune