By Prince Tongogara
Harare, January 17, 2014 – While the civil servants salary hike demands are understandable, the 2014 budget and the economic growth budget therein cannot sustain anything beyond the modest 26 percent offered by the government, analysts say.
Civil servants are demanding a minimum wage of $540 from the current $297.
However, the government argues the demand is unsustainable considering the budgetary limitation in the current year with revenues estimated at $4.1billion.
The civil servants and government negotiating parties met again in Harare on Friday to try to break the wage negotiations stalemate with no solution in sight.
Former Crisis Group International Southern Africa analyst Trevor Maisiri said the civil servants’ demands are very unlikely to be met under the current economic conditions.
“Even if the state does award that increment it will probably be to avert immediate pressure from civil servants but in the short term government will not be able to sustain that increment,” Maisiri said.
Respected journalist and analyst, Rashweat Mukundu concurred with Maisiri saying the government can only afford to award a higher salary increment only if it laid off some employees.
“The government may have to look at retrenchment and other ways of rewarding civil servants outside monetary payments as there is simply no money,” Mukundu said.
He added that the ultimate solution lies in growing the economy not to focus on continuously dividing a shrinking cake.
“Ultimately the solution to the crisis is economic as the government need to assist business grow hence expand the tax base,” Mukundu added, “Without this, the salary negotiations will soon become a merry go round matter with no lasting solution.”
Public Management expert Ricky Mukonza said, “It is suicidal for the wage bill to go beyond 70 percent of the national budget which in the past 5 years has proven disastrous with no major capital projects taking place in the country.”
More than 70 percent of the budget has been going towards recurrent expenditure. The ideal ratio is the wage bill should not be more than 30 percent of the budget.
There are about 230 000 employees on the government payroll.
However, the government has been reluctant to remove the 75 000 civil servants improperly recruited soon after the violent and disputed 2008 presidential polls.
The coalition government formed after unity talks instituted a payroll and skills audit of civil servants that earthed the anomaly. Audit firm, Ernest and Young India carried out the audit whose recommendations the government is yet to implement.
The union leaders said government’s offer of a $79 increase for the lowest paid workers such as office orderlies and messengers was very low compared to the poverty datum line (PDL). The PDL is currently pegged at $540 per month.
Under government proposals, Grades D1 to D5, composed mainly of teachers who account for about 60 percent of the civil service would get $54, bringing their salary up to $500 from $446.
Grades E1 to E5, made up of deputy directors, directors and their seniors, were offered $92 bringing their monthly earnings to $623 from about $521.