HomeOpinion & AnalysisStir The Pot: It’s the economy, stupid!

Stir The Pot: It’s the economy, stupid!

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Paidamoyo Muzulu
WORKING for government remains one of the surest ways for a stable income, job security and above all, a ticket to further studies for many across the globe.

However, with each passing day, the statement is being proven to be contrary in Zimbabwe as many try to escape the country for supposed newer greener pastures in foreign lands.

Health work and teaching were highly regarded as noble professions by many Zimbabweans.

Joining the military or police were other options that the youths could pursue.

Actually, joining the security services was a career path for those who were enlightened. Joining the security services was a sure way to a secured future. All the uniformed forces in Zimbabwe are pensionable after a 20-year service.

They also enjoyed subsidised accommodation and for those who liked to further their studies, there were generous study leaves available.

In other words, joining the uniformed services soon after Advanced Level examinations was a certain meal ticket.

Many took the opportunity to study and got professional qualifications and were pensionable at a young age of 40, yet they could start a new career altogether.

This has changed over the years when politics has become the mainstay of the Zimbabwean life, continuously living in an election mode at the expense of the economy.

The working conditions for civil servants have been deteriorating each passing year.

Many in the uniformed services now find ways to keep working after 20-year services because the pensions are now not worth anything.

They are below the poverty datum line. Going for pension is now a sure way into a life of penury.

The Government of Zimbabwe last week decided it was no longer sustainable to continue on a “business as usual” approach to looking after its employees.

On Tuesday, the cabinet decided it would do something about the conditions for health workers.

The cabinet couched the statement in a manner meant to stem brain drain in the health sector.

It acknowledged that trained health personnel were leaving the country in droves into the region or international markets, where conditions of service are better.

“Cabinet wishes to inform the public that the inter-ministerial committee identified the causes of the brain in the health sector. To stem the brain drain, a committee was, therefore, set up to look holistically look into the following issues: Mechanisms to accelerate provision of non-monetary incentives, such as staff accommodation, transport, vehicle loans, canteens/cafeterias; and wifi- facilities connectivity,” the Cabinet said.

It is common cause that the above listed issues generally are part to any conditions of services to employees in both private and public sectors.

The question of housing and transport, even pension and medical aid, are core issues in any employment contract.

The question that government has finally decided to look and resolve this matter shows it had its priorities somewhere else for the past decades.

It is a fact that ministers, senior civil servants and Members of Parliament have all enjoyed housing and transport benefits.

These benefits include brand new personal issue vehicles, mansions in leafy suburbs and stay in five-star hotels when they are out of office.

Many of these enjoy unlimited WiFi or data contracts in addition to generous monthly fuel allocations.

The statement added: “Measures to improve the remuneration of tutors in nurses training colleges and administration of nurses training colleges, judicious adjustment of monetary benefits and addressing the disparity between the urban and rural health personnel incentives in order to attract personnel to rural areas.”

Interestingly, the Cabinet did not put a date to when these matters would be concluded.

Leaving it open ended shows government is not in a rush to solve these perennial issues.

It is important, at this juncture, to note that Zimbabwe is not only witnessing a brain drain in the health sector. The country is also facing a similar crisis in the education sector, accounting and engineering services. Zimbabwe is suffering a huge shortage of these professionals.

It, therefore, begs the question that if government is now ready to solve issues in the health sector, when will it look into the other aforementioned sectors?

While the focus may for now be on these critical sector, it is important to look at all other sectors because all the workers are suffering.

Perhaps it is time Zimbabwe engages in a proper discussion about minimum wages sector-by-sector linked to the cost of living or poverty datum line.

Both government and the private sector should endeavour to bring back the dignity to those who work and help create wealth.

Government and capital should work together on the pricing matrix of all goods and services.

This should include factoring all production costs and allowing business to put a 25% mark-up on top.

This is the common across the world. Any profit margin above 25% is profiteering and should not be encouraged.

These measures need a huge paradigm shift on both senior government officials and executives in the private sector.

Remuneration should be calculated on the basis of basic income plus profit sharing ration based on production.

This is a winning formula in that executives will earn their bread and in the process, if the company is making profits, workers at the lower levels would deserve a raise too.

In the main, all this is premised on a working economy, an economy that is creating wealth, jobs and bringing prosperity for all and not just the few.

Workers, human resources, are an integral part to any successful organisation and therefore need to be well looked after.

Finally, this concession by government should be a window to look into all things labour in a holistic manner across all sectors and bring dignity to workers and not in the piece-meal approach suggested by government.

Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.

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