Government meets workers

Gabriel Masvora, News Editor  
THE bulk of civil servants, among them teachers will start getting their US dollar bonus payments this week, as the Government is set to announce a raft of other measures to cushion workers and increase their spending power.

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development announced that this year’s bonus for civil servants will be paid in US dollars, a  development that has excited Government workers. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Professor Paul Mavima told Sunday News yesterday that payments will start this week, as from a policy point of view, the payment of bonuses has been authorised.

“In fact the money (bonus) should have come in with the November salary but it will start reflecting in bank accounts this week or  before the end of the month. Normally it is those in the education sector that start receiving and from my understanding the bulk of the civil servants will receive their bonus this month and the rest next month,” he said.

Prof Mavima said everything was in the hands of the Public Service Commission (PSC) on how the money will be disbursed. Apart from the bonus, the Government is also set to announce other benefits for its workforce.

“I understand the National Joint Negotiation Council is meeting this week. I am just waiting for the report from that meeting so that we can look at it,” he said.

Apex Council secretary Mr David Dzatsunga said the meeting has been confirmed for tomorrow (Monday). Apex Council is a body comprising of 15 trade unions representing civil servants from across Government departments.

“The meeting is now on Monday at 10AM. We are going to discuss the issue of bonus and the need for a cost of living adjustment.

“More importantly on salaries we want the Government to consider paying us in US dollars as they are going to do with the bonus,” he said.

The development comes ahead of the 2022 national budget announcement on Thursday by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube. Economists pointed out that the budget must be inclined to post Covid-19 recovery and also stimulate local spending and economic growth.

Although Covid-19 is still a threat, economists believe that Zimbabwe has done well in vaccinating its population and has to slightly shift its focus to economic recovery. That recovery path must reflect in the budget, they said.

Economist Mr Joseph Mverecha said the budget must loosen the tax leash to give more spending power to workers.
“First, the budget must sustain fiscal consolidation as necessary to ensure the sustainability of the local currency.

We must not lose the local currency. Budget must also provide tax relief for the low income. Wage earners are suffering immensely due to a combination of factors. Prof Ncube must provide substantial tax relief by widening tax brackets and measurable adjustment of taxable thresholds,” he said.

Mr Mverecha said civil servants salaries must also be looked into and there was a need to reduce the Intermediated Money Transfer Tax from two percent to one percent to give people more spending power.

“He must consider significant adjustments to civil servants salaries, which are still below their US$ equivalent levels of 2018. He may consider a temporary increase in VAT to 16 percent while simultaneously reducing IMT tax to one percent.”

Economic analyst, strategic and management consultant Mr Julius Tapera said the budget must allocate more funds to capital projects and infrastructure development while also minimising Government expenditure.

“There must also be measures to improve the disposable income for the workers and increase investment in solar energy infrastructure to complement current capacity and ensure sustainable availability of energy for both industry and domestic use. This will also contribute towards reduction of our expenditure of foreign currency on power imports,” he said.

There are also a number of projects that the Government is undertaking in the Matabeleland region that seek to tap funding from the budget. Mr Tapera said in relation to Matabeleland, Prof Ncube must avail funds to complete the Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a part of the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project to improve water  supplies.

“The minister must also allocate money for irrigation  infrastructure within the region to support sustainable agricultural productivity and money to support the growth of beef and dairy herds in the region given that the region supports livestock production.”

Lupane State University Economics lecturer Mr Nkululeko Mpofu said the budget must look at many facets in Matabeleland.

“Matabeleland, especially Matabeleland North lags behind on infrastructure development, in particular roads. Government needs to address the Beitbridge-Bulawayo-Victoria Falls roads. It’s a Sadc corridor such that if it well maintained, it will make Zimbabwe a preferred transit route from SA-Zim-Zambia and DRC traffic.

“Other roads that need urgent attention are Nkayi-Lupane-Tsholotsho-Plumtree,” he said.

Mr Mpofu said money must also be availed to improve schools especially in rural areas.

“We expect the budget to address low pass rates in Matabeleland especially on Science, Technology Engineering and Mathematics subjects by building and equipping already existing laboratories. Matabeleland is conducive to livestock production. This must also be reflected in the fiscus.”

Government meets workers