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Grumblings in civil service as Zimbabwe
moves to cut jobs and remuneration

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Representatives of Zimbabwean civil servants will meet Wednesday to discuss the government’s announcement that it would cut jobs and tax the allowances of those in lower grades starting Oct. 1.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, in announcing the mid-term fiscal policy statement last week, said the taxing of allowances, together with reduction of workers by 25,000, would unlock more revenue for the cash-strapped government.

Chinamasa also announced the suspension of bonuses for 2016 and 2017, a move which civil servants will most likely find untenable because of their already low salaries.

Ministers and their deputies and more senior employers will also have to endure salary and allowances cuts of between 5 and 10 percent.

The minister said Cabinet had approved wage bill rationalization, which would reduce baseline public employment costs by around 118 million U.S. dollars by end of year.

Employment costs took 1.64 billion U.S. dollars—or 96.8 percent of revenue—during the first six months of the year.

A health worker who refused to be named said the taxing of allowances would hurt many people because they were not earning enough to sustain decent standards of living.

“Taxing our allowances is one and the same thing with reducing our salaries because our take-home will be lower,” he complained.

President of the Zimbabwe Teachers Association Richard Gundane told state-run newspaper Herald that the general sentiment among workers was that the government decision was unacceptable.

“We have to make it clear to the government that we’re not accepting their decision to cut jobs, salaries and allowances for civil servants,” he said.

Economist Clemence Machadu described the government’s decision as a prescription for slimming to death.

“The common thinking is that by cutting civil servants’ salaries and allowances by up to 20 percent and forgoing bonuses up to 2017, Government would save money.”

“But the truth of the matter is that anything that tampers with the worker’s spending power, tampers with demand too, eventually tampering with production. It’s naive austerity,” he told Xinhua.

He added that the action would further discourage the already low employee productivity and morale, and invite more demonstrations on top of the ones that had taken place in recent weeks.

Chinamasa is literally caught between a rock and a hard place and has to juggle between a huge labor force of 298,000 chewing up 96.8 percent of revenue and freeing more funds for social and infrastructure development against an underperforming economy.

Revenue projection to end of year has now been revised downwards from 3.85 billion dollars to 3.755 billion because of low revenue inflows.

The revenues underperformed by about 183.7 million dollars while expenditures were about 308.4 million between January and June.

Chinamasa said forgoing bonuses for the next two years would release 180 million dollars which would be used to alleviate the effects of the current devastating drought.

But Machadu said this was not good enough because the poorly paid civil servants would suffer more.

“But how do you solve drought by cutting an income of an average person, and are we going to have drought in 2017, since the 2017 bonus has also been forgone?”

While the ministers would also experience salary cuts, Machadu said more should have been done to make them spend less, including revising the type of motor vehicles they used.

He said he feared that some senior civil servants and ministers—now left without bonuses and with reduced salaries and allowances which are now being taxed as well—might lunge at government enterprises under their purview and siphon funds from there.



Zimbabwe cabinet rejects proposal to cut salary for civil servants

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe’s cabinet has rejected a proposal by finance minister to cut salaries and bonuses for civil servants as part of measures to contain a ballooning public sector wage bill gobbling 97 percent of state revenues.

Information Minister Christopher Mushowe said Wednesday the cabinet rejected the proposal in July and that Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa disregarded this when he announced the measures while presenting the mid-term budget speech in parliament last week.

Among other measures, Chinamasa proposed a reduction in salaries and allowances for civil servants, taxation of allowances, suspension of bonuses for two years and retrenchment of 25,000 civil servants as part of cost-cutting measures to revitalize the economy.

Chinamasa also proposed to cut the number of embassies and consulates, a reduction in foreign allowances and to review class travel arrangements for senior government officials including ministers and legislators.

“The President and cabinet want to assure the civil servants, farmers and the public at large that these proposed measures are not friendly operative,” Mushowe said.

Mushohwe said it was expected that the clarification would put to rest anxieties that may have arisen within the civil service, farming community and public at large.

Chinamasa warned that government could soon fail to raise enough money to pay salaries to its workers if urgent measures are not put in place to arrest ballooning expenditure.

According to Chinamasa, the measures were expected to reduce employment costs to around 60 percent of total revenue by 2019 from the current 97 percent.

Zimbabwe’s government is operating in a tight fiscal space marked by dwindling revenue inflows.

Economic growth forecast for 2016 has been cut to 1.2 percent from the initial 2.7 percent due to poor performance in agriculture, the mainstay of the economy.



Zimbabwe police issue new ban on public protests in capital

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean police have issued a new ban on public demonstrations in capital Harare for a month after their recent ban was declared invalid by the High Court.

Officer Commanding Harare Central District Chief Superintendent Newbert Saunyama issued the prohibition order Tuesday.

The ban runs from Sept. 16 to October 15, 2016.

The new ban comes after the High Court last week declared invalid a two-week ban on public protests by police, arguing that it was unconstitutional and violated citizens’ rights.

Police had issued the ban following violent clashes between police and demonstrators last month.

The court challenge was mounted by opposition political parties working under the banner of National Electoral Reform Agenda who have previously organized anti-government protests to push for electoral reforms before the 2018 elections.




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