An economist at the University of Zimbabwe Ashok Chakravarti says for the first time in years Zimbabwe is moving in the right direction but it will take time for the measures it is implementing to play out.
He told the Standard that though civil servants were right to demand better wages, they should bear in mind that the country’s economy has been mismanaged for nearly 20 years.
“That is all coming home to roost now. If you think that this is going to be solved in a day, then this is where I differ with most people and, of course, people are upset with the condition of the economy. But, I think for the first time in a very long time some effort is being made to move in the right direction and I think it will take time for these measures to play out,” Chakravarti said.
Civil servants are demanding a minimum salary of $1 733 a month and the Standard said this could push the wage bill to $12.2 billion against a budget on only $3.9 billion.
Even the chairperson of the civil service Apex Council Cecilia Alexander admitted that the government is broke.
“Yes, government is broke, but we are workers of government. At the end of the day when we have provided a service, we also want to be able to earn something that will make us look after our families, at least to live a reasonable life,” she told the Standard.
“Whether they are able to pay or not, we are now saying we are in a worse off situation and as workers it is our right to demand the value of what we have been earning. It is not correct for any government whatsoever to remove a benefit or to give somebody less without even engaging them.”
She said the $1 733 civil servants were demanding was not an increment. It was merely an adjustment. The average wage of civil servants was $500 a month.
“In fact, the $1 733 is not a figure that we came up with to get an increment, it is just a matter of asking government to restore the value of what we were earning around September (2018). At the end of the day, all we want as civil servants is to have the value of what we earned restored, so it is up to government to either look for the US dollars to pay us in hard currency or the other way round,” she said.
The government offered to increase salaries for civil servants by only 10 percent.