Biti right about civil servants salaries


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Finance Minister Tendai Biti is right about salaries of civil servants. They deserve an increase. No one queries that. But the pay roll should be rationalised first to get rid of the 75 000 ghost workers.

Let us look at what this means. Even assuming that all the 75 000 ghost workers were getting the minimum $150 a month. This means that government was wasting $135 million a year on them. Since their salaries have been increased by $100 and they are now getting $250 a month this means the government is now going to throw away $225 million a year.

These figures might look small but the government only has a budget of $2.7 billion and $1.44 billion if for salaries of civil servants. If the government is spending $225 million on ghost workers this means that it is throwing away more than 8.3 percent of its expenditure or more precisely 16 percent of the salaries for civil servants are going to waste.

In the meantime it is spending only $16.6 million, less than 1 percent of its budget allocation on agriculture, yet agriculture is the country’s backbone and is currently one of the major drivers of the 9.3 percent growth.

The government is spending a staggering 61 percent of its budget on salaries of civil servants. If you add the 1 percent it spends on foreign missions, another 5 percent on social service delivery and another 1 percent on social protection, you get the drift.

Biti rightly points out that “a wage bill absorbing 70 percent of the total budget clearly leaves little room for the 13 million Zimbabweans looking for support from this same budget”.

It is time to put emotions aside and look at reality. Zimbabweans must learn to live within their means as they have been doing since the formation of the inclusive government. The days of pretending that the government has all the money and can print it when it is needed are over.

The money the country is earning from diamonds must be used to improve infrastructure. It must be given to the productive sector so that this sector can create jobs.

A recent survey by an international polling agency Gallup showed that Zimbabweans were now happier than most people in Southern Africa. This was despite their low salaries. We can only earn more by being productive. Even the bible says it in 2 Thessalonians 3:

An Exhortation to Proper Living

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from all believers who live idle lives and don’t follow the tradition they received from us. For you know that you ought to imitate us. We were not idle when we were with you. We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat.”

And we have pointed out before, it is not how much you earn that matters but how much it can buy. Zimbabweans know this because at one stage we were all poor millionaires.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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