Price hikes will not force government salary review: Chinamasa

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FINANCE Minister Patrick Chinamasa has ruled out any immediate salary increase for civil servants following a wave of price increases in the country from late last year.

He had been asked by Zvishavane senator Lilian Timveos in the upper house recently if government would consider a pay rise for teachers whose salaries were last reviewed some eight years ago.

Timveos said teachers have raised alarm over the diminishing value of their wages since the time prices shot through the roof late last year while there was no corresponding review of their salaries.

“They are equating that prices are going up and the economy is not good, but they still have the same salaries. So, they are wanted to find out what measures you have put in place in addressing their salaries,” said the MDC-T legislator.

Chinamasa, responding, was unequivocal in dismissing any immediate plans to increase salaries for not just teachers but the entire civil service.

He insisted the national purse was still too constrained to accommodate any additional costs towards paying salaries.

“…The answer basically is that, currently, we are living beyond our means. Ninety percent or so of our revenues are going to wages and none to operations or capital formation.

“That it is very important if we are to restructure our budget and the nature of our expenditure, we have to address the issue about our expenditure.

“If we are to succeed, it means that all of us must tighten our belts and not loosen them.”

Chinamasa said he will not fall for the temptation of printing money to meet any salary demands by government workers insisting civil servants were well aware of their employer’s financial stress.

“So far, I thought that the civil service and those who are in the Public Service understand that the circumstances are very difficult for all of us and that we would make a mistake to print money in order to meet salary demands.

“So, there has been a freeze as you know of posts in the civil service just as also we have not been able to adjust the salaries of the entirety of the civil service.”

Presenting his 2018 budget in December last year, Chinamasa pledged to reverse the national budget’s highly consumptive trajectory which saw government run a wage bill that consumed 86 percent of the national purse. He promised to trim labour costs to 70 percent in 2018.

The minister said government will, starting January this year, retire all those who would have reached the retirement age of 65 and further cut off a total of 3,739 so-called youth officers from government payroll.

He said, then, that government shall maintain a recruitment freeze on all non-essential staff to contain a run-away wage bill.