Tension, uncertainty grips civil servants
GOVERNMENT’S failure to commit itself to a date to pay civil servants the promised bonus has increased tension, uncertainty and anxiety among its workforce.
The Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA), the country’s largest teachers’ representative group, has warned of impending unrest among its members if government does not immediately address the issues of bonuses, salaries and reversing a 7,5 percent employee pension contributions deducted from teachers salaries last month.
For the first time since independence in 1980, over half of Zimbabwe’s half a million civil servants spent their Christmas without receiving their monthly pay and annual bonus.
Fiscal pressures, which worsened last year, have escalated in the New Year amid fears that government operations may grind to a halt unless Treasury gets substantial cash injection to avert the crisis.
The year began with civil servants demanding that government give them exact dates when their December salaries and 13th cheques would be paid.
ZIMTA president, Richard Gundani, told the Financial Gazette that government should be clear when they would pay civil servants their bonus.
“They (government) have not been clear and are reluctant to commit themselves to a date when they will pay the bonus,” he said.
He said nine ZIMTA officials would this week meet government representatives over a number of issues that included bonus payments, rationalisation of the civil service, working conditions and the 7,5 percent deducted from teachers salaries.
“That 7,5 percent pension has to be reversed with immediate effect, our members cannot afford it. Government has a tendency of implementing measures without consulting us and this has to stop in 2016,” Gundani said.
The deductions were reflected in their December salaries which they received after the pay date was shifted on several occasions.
The move by government came after it had stopped paying transport and housing allowances and also directed parents to stop paying teachers any form of incentives.
“As we begin a new year, we have new demands that we want government to implement after we meet them, but cannot disclose them (to you) now. As we speak there is so much tension, uncertainty, anxiety and insecurity among civil servants. This should be a thing of the past going forward,” Gundani said.
Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, announced last week that the December salary payment date for many civil servants had been moved to January 5, 2016, as State coffers continued to dwindle in line with the country’s struggling economy.
Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor, John Mangudya, had to move in to placate the restive public servants, promising them that their dues would be paid.
Acting Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Lazarus Dokora, maintained that civil servants would get their salaries and bonuses as announced.
Figures from Treasury indicate that nearly 80 percent of revenue generated by government is directed towards civil servants salaries. Of the projected US$4 billion budget, about US$3,4 billion goes towards government salaries, leaving a balance of about US$700 million for operations, debt service and capital development programmes. What this means is that salaries alone may end up gobbling the entire budget, leaving nothing for projects and debt repayment. Government is saddled with a US$8,4 billion debt.
Unfortunately unlike previous years, Chinamasa has to work within the realities of Zimbabwe’s economy.
There is very little cash to fund the budget. Unlike in his previous budgets, he has to make reference to the direct link between the country’s problems and the unattractive investment climate that has ensured that these problems remain firmly in place.
The government’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, indicates that fiscal space remains severely constrained due to poor performance of revenue inflows against the background of rising recurrent expenditures, a shrinking tax base and company closures.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) agonised over missed targets and declining revenues last year and the trend could continue.
Last year, revenue shortfalls, against the background of a shrinking economy, were worsened by weakening international commodity prices that conspired with reduced foreign direct investment. Even a blitz by ZIMRA on businesses to raise tax could not improve the situation.
With revenue taking a severe knock, the few projects that government could fund under this year’s budget will suffer as resources are diverted towards salaries. Indications are that funds raised by other agencies like the Zimbabwe National Roads Administration are being diverted towards Treasury for purposes of paying salaries. As a result, road projects are suffering.
Government currently has about 550 000 employees on its payroll, which is reportedly packed with ghost workers.
But the Finance Minister has denied this.
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