By Alois Vinga
FINANCE Ministry’s permanent secretary, George Guvamatanga on Monday said current salaries being earned by the country’s civil servants are much higher than the US$540 awarded at the peak of the dollarized Government of National Unity (GNU) era.
He made the remarks during a press conference to announce economic stability measures where he argued that based on the current exchange rates , civil servants are currently better paid.
“I would also like to dispel another notion that has been shared widely to say that previously during the Government of National Unity era, the minimum salary was US$540 per month,” said the former Barclays Bank chief executive.
“That’s also not correct because we know that at the time the exchange rate in the market was US$1: ZW$ 2,500.
“So, if you want to work out the correct US$ you have to get that US$540 and divide it by ZW$2 500 to get what was the real salary in US$.
“If you take the US$175,00 we are currently paying at ZW$60 000 as a minimum salary we are not even far off what the civil servants were being paid at that particular time.
“We have also conveniently converted that as 1:1 but well aware of the fact that at that applicable time there was an exchange rate in the market and the real value was around $200 in the market. It was US$540 divided by ZW$2 500,” he said.
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The treasury secretary also slammed civil service union representatives for continuously falsifying the fact that they are currently earning a very small amount of money, while deliberately avoiding mentioning that they are also being paid an allowance of US$175,00.
“Even if we are to base the current salaries in combined US$ allowances and the Zim$ components vis a vis the latest Poverty Datum Lines, you will discover that we are paying way over ZW$100,000,” he said.
However, Guvamatanga’s remarks fly in the faces of government employees who are currently demanding payment in US$ or a minimum of what they held at US$540, 00 immediately before de-dolarisation in 2019.
The pronouncement immediately attracted a backlash from ex-Finance Minister Tendai Biti who held the reins during the GNU era as he argued that there was never any exchange rate.
“The suggestion that there was an exchange rate in 2013 is so zany. It can’t be made by a senior civil servant. A parallel exchange rate only emerges fully in 2018 upon introduction of the surrogate currency we call the RTGS$ or the Bond Note,” he said.