FINANCE minister Mthuli Ncube yesterday bragged that government was the best paying employer in the country after it awarded civil servants a 41% salary increase last week.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Ncube made the claims during a pre-budget seminar for parliamentarians in Harare.
His claims are despite that the new pay hike has left the least paid civil servant earning about $14 000, approximately US$165 using the auction rate, which is still way below the poverty datum line of $20 000 announced by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.
The pre-budget seminar for parliamentarians was meant to prepare them for the 2021 National Budget statement which will be presented this month.
It will be anchored on the five-year National Development Strategy One (NDS1) blueprint.
The NDS1 focuses on inclusive economic development between 2021 and 2025 and is successor to the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) which was launched in 2018 and introduced austerity measures which further impoverished Zimbabweans.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa (MDC Alliance) asked Ncube to explain his claims that there was stability in the economy when in fact, there was industrial unrest in the education and health sectors.
“I really want to say that government is one of the top payers as an employer in this country at the moment. The lowest paid civil servant gets $14 000 and teachers get $19 000 — and what other employers are paying that in the private sector?” Ncube rhetorically asked.
“Government is one of the top payers and I will bring that data in the coming days to show you so that you see for yourselves.”
The minister further told MPs that his staff had converted US dollar salaries earned by employees in the private sector to Zimbabwe dollars, which then revealed that civil servants were the best paid workers in Zimbabwe.
He compared civil servants to some sectors that were in comatose, for instance, the air traffic sector, and to workers in the agricultural sector.
“For example, the air traffic sector is paying a minimum wage of $5 000, the cotton sector pays a minimum wage of $8 500, in the agriculture sector the highest paid is at $5 000, the sugar industry is at $5 000 and the motor industry is at $5 250,” he said.
The salary scales that Ncube compared to those of civil servants exposed the gross abuse of workers in the country whereby a majority earn less than US$50 per month.
His assertions irked Norton MP Temba Mliswa (independent) who interjected, blasting him for bragging that civil servants were the best paid workers when they were still underpaid, while other workers in the country were getting “slave wages”.
“Convert those salaries to US dollars and you will find that even an MP gets US$60 and what you are saying does not mean anything,” Mliswa said.
He was interrupted by Senate deputy president Michael Nyambuya who was chairing the session who ruled that he would not recognise Mliswa’s
Ncube then told MPs that NDS1 envisage to create about 100 000 jobs.
In 2018, during electoral campaigns, and in the TSP, government claimed that two million jobs would be created, but the opposite was true as thousands lost their jobs as companies closed due to the deteriorating economy.
Mutasa Central MP Trevor Saruwaka (MDC Alliance) then asked Ncube to explain when he would finally pay teachers the US$520 salary that they have been demanding.
“We have increased teachers’ salaries by 1 300% this year and that is a major percentage increase and it is way above inflation rates. Surely as government we have tried.”
In his presentation at the same event, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya claimed that the country was on a positive trajectory in terms of economic recovery.
“I am seeing a brighter future for Zimbabwe with low inflation. I am seeing a future pregnant with hope. I am seeing good economic fundamentals which are now right,” Mangudya
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda said: “The austerity measures underpinned by the TSP were a bitter pill which had to be swallowed regardless. As we craft the 2021 budget, as the first year of implementing the NDS1, the bitter pill of austerity should continue to be taken, albeit in a sugar laced form.”
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