‘Government took a wrong turn’


Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa

THE fallout between government and civil servants is far from over.
Relations between them have been frosty for more than two decades.
The tipping point came less than a month ago when the bulk of the 500 000 strong civil servants spent Christmas and New Year holidays without receiving their salaries.
This was after government failed to pay them on time.
The Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) has since then been digging in.
This week, the association fired a salvo at government, saying the financial challenges confronting it were man-made.
Sifiso Ndlovu, the association’s chief executive officer, said government should have stopped the economic implosion long back by implementing macro and micro economic policies that would have helped revive economic activity in the country.
“We took a wrong turn when we over-employed in government. Up to now there is no transparency on the actual employment levels in the government. We should have seen the rationalisation of civil servants by now,” said Ndlovu.
Government has been ignoring advice to trim its bloated workforce, which includes ghost workers.
An International Monetary Fund staff monitored programme made similar recommendations to Treasury, but its advice fell on deaf ears.
An opportunity to cut down on civil service numbers had presented itself in July last year when the Supreme Court made a landmark ruling allowing employers to terminate contracts on three months’ notice, but that chance went begging.
Nearly 25 000 workers from the private sector were fired on the back of the Supreme Court ruling as employers rushed to cut back on numbers.
The indiscriminate dismissals only stopped after government amended the Labour Act.
Although a number of parastatals trimmed their numbers following the July 17, 2015 ruling, among them the National Railways of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, nothing of the sort happened in the public service.
Political observers argue that government decided to keep its payroll intact for political expediency, as it kept a hawkish eye on the looming 2018 elections, and avoided biting the bullet and taking the hard decision to shed off deadwood within its ranks.
More than 80 percent of government’s monthly income derived from taxes collected by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is spent on paying salaries, an expenditure which Patrick Chinamasa, the Finance Minister, has repeatedly said was untenable.
ZIMTA said government’s expenditure pattern remains impractical given the level of economic activity in the country.
Last year’s Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries manufacturing sector survey indicated that factory capacity utilisation had shrunk to 34 percent from 36,5 percent during the same period the previous year.
Regardless, government continues to spend recklessly

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