BY MELODY CHIKONO
GOVERNMENT says it will not relent to civil servants’ demands for salary increases, as this would cripple productive sectors of the economy and derail the ongoing International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff monitored programme, which places emphasis on capping the wage bill.
Civil servants have for the past three years been pushing for salaries that tally with the poverty datum line, now pegged at ZW$40 000 (US$476) per month for a family of six.
At the same time, the government wage bill has ballooned to 92% of expenditure from around 48% in 2009.
A series of wage talks with civil servants’ representatives have produced very little, with government insisting it has to strike the delicate balance between meeting wage obligations and falling foul of an IMF staff monitored programme, which is a key pretext to a debt clearance plan.
The IMF has often raised concerns over the fact that salaries account for the majority of government expenditure.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mavima this week told the Zimbabwe Independent on the sidelines of the ongoing eighth edition of Continental Africa Public Service Day commemorations in Victoria Falls that increasing salaries and wages to the same level with PDL meant takes away resources from the productive to the consumptive function.
“That is counterproductive. This is why we are talking about maintaining minimal changes for now because we want to maintain a balance where we can reserve resources for construction of roads, schools, health facilities instead of paying public servants just to sit without service delivery or infrastructural delivery,” Mavima said.
“There has to be a painful and sometimes delicate balance between meeting the demand of our public service and maintain some resources for the country.”
He, however, admitted that government was seized with the issue and was cognisant of the fact it needed to restore value of the employees in real terms.
Most public servants are earning around ZW$17 000, equivalent of US$200.
Mavima said government was taking a gradual approach to retain that value.
“There was quite some erosion that took place in employees’ salaries due to the necessary transformation of monetary policy that moved us away from the US dollar remuneration to where we introduced the Zimbabwean dollar,” he said.
“Salaries remained at the same level even the value of the Zimdollar had reduced compared to the US dollar. So we got to a situation where for example teachers when earning US$500 and got to point of earning an equivalent of US$30 or US$40 per month.
“So we understand we have to balance that request with what the country can afford at this particular time.
“I’m glad to say that we have moved from that US$40-50 equivalent salary to where we are now around US$200 if you use the official exchange rate. So we have progressed significantly but we need to find means and ways of increasing salaries and wages of public service in real value. That will make them motivated.” Mavima added.
The labour minister said salary adjustments were, however, key to ensuring that civil servants did not become susceptible to moral hazards, like corruption.
The Continental Africa Public Service Day is an annual event held in June and provides a platform for civil servants to reflect on their work environment, focusing on achievements, challenges and solutions.