by Tariro Daphne Senderayi
It is that time of the year when Zimbabweans looks on as the Finance Minister gets into magician mode and attempts at pulling a rabbit out of the hat so to speak. You thought we had it bad last year, you are definitely in for a rethink as this review speaks a whole different story that will actually ensure that the ever abused civil servants will be on the receiving end of all bad jokes.
Last week, Chinamasa waved his magic wand by presenting the Mid-Year Fiscal policy review statement in the National Assembly. In so doing, the review speaks only of doom and gloom. This comes as no surprise seeing as Zimbabwe is shoulder deep in debt and year in year out the proposed national budget is all consuming vis a vis being pro developmental. Or just maybe we have a clueless lawyer for a Minister of Finance who is already dizzy with the numbers. It is in that tornado of dizziness that he has made some shocking if not baffling projections that have pointed out the ineptitude of our ever disappointing and forever failing government.
One of the highlights of the review is the intention of government to make a significant cut on employment costs. In a few words that is sad news as there shall be civil servants who shall be left jobless in 2017. Apparently, between January and June 2016 employment costs have gobbled close to a staggering USD 1,638 billion of revenue. And this amount constitutes close to 96,8% of total revenue leaving almost 3,2% to shoulder the burden of development. 3,2% is next to nothing as almost all the revenue goes towards paying civil servants. In his view, Chinamasa anticipates that in reducing baseline public employment costs, this shall incur close to USD 118 million by the end of 2016.
Another highlight that’s seeks to reverse the unsustainable consumptive position Zimbabwe finds herself in is to cut salaries of those civil servants that shall be lucky enough to remain employed. Not only does it rain in the ‘civil service land’ but it is an unavoidable downpour as that move shall be coupled with the forgoing of bonuses (13th cheque) for two years.
My question in all this is how much more suffering can the civil servants take and will this ultimately affect service delivery as they are getting more disgruntled and dissatisfied by the day (or it already has)? However, news from their camp is they have refused to roll over and be hit by the Chinamasa train wreck. In a few words they are having none of it. They seek to contest g this proposal on the illegality of it.
They have every intention of kicking the proposal to the curb as they strongly believe that the move by government to cut salaries and suspend bonuses is tantamount to unilaterally altering the contracts of civil servants. These contracts make explicit provision for an annual 13th cheque. Thus, they believe that such a benefit cannot be taken away from the table without the consultation of those affected. In fact they feel this shall translate into dissatisfaction and demotivation of civil servants which will ultimately affect service delivery.
Sentiments are that government should focus their pent up energy on reviving the economy instead of gunning for unnecessary cuts that may be insignificant in a functioning economy. Chinamasa’s review is equivalent to merely addressing the symptoms of the problem and not the problem. But then again, what do we honestly expect from a man who is expected to budget revenue that is non-existent. The task burdened on his shoulders is similar to asking him to use a largely perforated bucket to carry water home because to be honest at the end of the day there is no cake to slice.
One highlight that shall be welcomed with open arms is Governments intention to review and rationalise class travel arrangements of all officials including Ministers, Parliamentarians etc and the reduction of travel foreign allowances. Don’t we all wish this recommendation had come sooner rather than later what with the appalling tendency of our jet setting Minister and receiving of shocking per diems? Is this not a case of too little too late as so much revenue has been gobbled by these globe-trotting public officials? As for this interesting highlight we shall definitely hold the Honourable Minister to his word because we have been failing to reconcile how government claims it has no money yet our dear ministers were traveling to destinations of their choice just at the drop of a hat.
Furthermore, this issue of having deputies of deputies in each ministry should come to a screeching halt. The concept that the cake is too small to accommodate such unnecessary offices should be communicated clearly to all. If we seriously want to cut down on costs not only should ordinary civil servants be given the sack but also deputies in each ministry should be sacked too. Cost cutting should apply equally to every office no matter how high or low for that matter and not be applied selectively. Some offices only serve as a duplication of another which does not feed well into the cost cutting scheme. We shall keep an eye out on that one.
Suffice to say, we need to get off this train at some point because civil servants are the lifeline and the cornerstone of service delivery in Zimbabwe and with such unempathetic Fiscal Policy reviews, the Government may be further crippling the chances of Zimbabwe rising on her feet again. Our children need to benefit from the best of their service and in no way should we compromise that.