Salary increases financial suicide

THIS week we read that civil servants’ representatives met in Harare on Tuesday and came up with a resolution to demand a minimum salary of US$540 a month and 30% of basic salary as rural allowance.

Zimbabwe Independent Editorial

No one disputes the fact that Zimbabwe’s civil servants are among the least paid in the region.

However, a sobering thought is that while they are lowly paid, they gobble up 70% of government revenues, according to official figures.

Although the public servants chew up such a huge size of national coffers, they only account for less than 3% of the population.

This might be ironic, but a general complaint by various international lobby groups who advocate for the fair distribution of wealth in the world is that 90% of the world’s wealth is only owned by 5% of the world’s population. Forbes constantly publishes the top 400 billionaires of the world whose combined incomes beat Zimbabwe’s GDP thousands of times over.

The difference with these world elites is that they actually generate the money they earn. Our civil servants don’t. Granted, they provide a service but government is not a profit-making entity.

The real issue is, with such scarcity of resources, can we afford such a large civil service, estimated at 250 000, in the first place, let alone increased salaries for them?

It’s time to look at the facts, which as common speak has it, are stubborn. John Adams, the second president of the United States, said: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

We understand the condition our civil servants find themselves in. We also empathise with the desire of government, in particular the president, to improve their lot. But if our president can quote from his long gone fellow US statesman the facts are that whatever his wishes, or his passion to increase civil servants salaries, no one can alter the facts and evidence before us, that is government simply does not have the means to fund these increments.

Whatever little resources we have must be channelled towards improving infrastructure and services that support the private sector to generate income. Once that is done tax therefrom can be channelled towards civil servants salaries. More importantly, civil servants incomes can be increased without pay hikes.

Government can, for instance, provide them with residential stands and amortise this as part of their income. After all, when they receive money, many want to buy these stands.

Civil servants can also have their children going to government schools for free and this benefit can be added to their income package. Another benefit they can have is that they and their families can receive medical treatment at public health institutions for free.

We are aware they already receive free transport. That’s a good start. Furthermore, civil servants can be exempted from paying utility bills to a certain limit.

Otherwise government simply cannot afford such unsustainable direct increases without committing financial suicide and plunging the already broke government into a dire fiscal crisis.