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Govt to retrench civil servants

Shakeman Mugari

GOVERNMENT is going to retrench workers to reduce a wage bill widely blamed for the burgeoning budget deficit.

ica, sans-serif”>Finance minister Herbert Murerwa told a pre-budget seminar last week that government was finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the current wage bill because of its contracting revenue base.

He said government would soon come up with a labour audit to flush out “ghost workers and pensioners”.

“Furthermore, our economy cannot sustain the current size of our public service. The 2006 budget should benefit from the current exercise by government to realise a lean civil service,” Murerwa said. “This will be accompanied by an audit exercise to flush out any ghost workers and pensioners.”

The wage bill has been gobbling up a massive 20% of gross domestic product (GDP) for the past two years.

Murerwa said civil servants could only be remunerated well when their number was severely cut through retrenchments. “This is also the only way we can begin to adequately remunerate the public servant,” Murerwa said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has since 1990 insisted that the government’s wage bill is too large and should be reduced to contain expenditure. The fund has also raised concerns about the size of the army, which although not part of the civil service, has been consuming a large chunk of national funds.

Over the past three months the government has been battling to maintain the army, with reports that a number of barracks have closed due to lack of food. The biting food shortages have forced the army to send some soldiers on forced leave to easy the pressure on the limited resources.

During his presentation, Murerwa admitted that the government’s bungling had widened the budget deficit.

“Our budget expenditures over the years have, save for 2004, always been exceeding the economy’s capacity to fund them through tax revenue.

Hence, budget deficits and recourse to highly inflationary borrowings have become a permanent historical feature of our fiscal policy formulation,” Murerwa said.

He said capacity utilisation remained “unacceptably low across most of the major economic sectors, further worsening unemployment”.

He said some of the country’s problems were caused by the “structure and performance of our budget as an instrument of economic policy”.

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