BY FIDELITY MHLANGA
FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday committed to pay civil servants their bonuses in November this year, adding that days of staggering payments were over.
Ncube was speaking at a mid-term budget review event hosted by Alpha Media Holdings in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Economics Society.
He said government wanted to keep a good track record of paying salaries on time.
“Also we are pretty aware that given the changes in the monetary regime and the inflation pick up, we need to cushion civil servants, including pensioners,” Ncube said.
“So what we did at the beginning of the year, if you recall, we put aside $63 million as a cushioning allowance and then first of April we did an adjustment worth of about $400 million. And a couple of weeks ago, we did another once off cushioning allowance which costed us about $143 million.
“And I insist that civil servants will get their bonuses again this year at the end of November all of them will get paid. We want to make sure that we keep the track record in paying civil servants. You know that there was a moment when they did not know when they would get paid. Now they know exactly when they will get paid. Who knows what I will do if I end up with a small surplus at the end of the year? We will even try to outperform in our bonus payment to civil servants.”
Government gave its workers $400 cushioning allowance last month, bringing the amount for the least earning government worker to about $660 per month, an amount still insignificant and is only enough to buy 73 litres of fuel. Teachers demanding about $4 000; have threatened a strike at the beginning of this year’s third term in September.
But Ncube yesterday implored the private sector to top employees’ salaries which has been heavily eroded by inflation, despite that government workers were ranked the least paid.
“My friends in the private sector, please look out for your employees. I am trying to look out for my employees too. Keep topping up those salaries, it’s very important because wage erosion is our biggest challenge at the moment. Please do something about it,” he said.
Ncube said the $1,1 billion set aside in his mid-term budget for social safety nets, was key for the social protection programme in building schools, mass public transport system and food support for both rural and urban areas.
The Finance minister said to stimulate production, he has set aside $286 billion for command agriculture.
“Also, we are preparing for the next season, the 2019/2020 summer cropping season. So we will assist those farmers for food security purposes. But also for those who can afford it. We have got two programmes – command agriculture and the presidential input scheme. We will make sure that for command agriculture, it’s only those who can pay back who will be targeted. We know the track record of who has been a good customer. So we will target those farmers,” he said.
Finance secretary George Guvamatanga said Treasury intends to appoint private firms to audit command agriculture funds to make sure that the process of issuing inputs works better this time around.
Turning to electricity shortages, Guvamatanga said the supply of electricity is set to improve starting this week.
“The arrangement that we have in place on electricity should hopefully guarantee us electricity supply from tomorrow (today) or Wednesday. We have engaged with suppliers of electricity, it is not my role to mention them and they have actually agreed on certain terms of the debt. The first instalment was made last week. We are going to make weekly instalments of the legacy debts. Working with the mining sector, we have been able to ring-fence some resources for at least 400 megawatts per month,” he said.