Lloyd Gumbo Senior Reporter
Government will start retrenching thousands of civil servants next year as part of a grand strategy to reduce the ever ballooning salary bill that has threatened capital projects, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said.
He made the remarks while responding to Parliamentary Portfolio Committees that presented their post-budget analysis reports in the National Assembly last night.
This also comes against the backdrop of Minister Chinamasa presenting a $4,1 billion 2015 National Budget of which $3,32 billion (81 percent) would go towards employment costs with the remaining $798 million to cater for operations, debt servicing and capital development programmes.
It is understood that the Government workers’ establishment rose from about 315 000 in 2009 to about 554 000 this year.
Minister Chinamasa said it was time Government bites the bullet and rationalises its staff establishment.
“Employment cost is a problem we cannot continue to postpone,” he said.
“We will grapple with it in the new year. We are happy about the recommendation for an audit to establish staff establishment. But let me say the wage bill is not as straightforward as it appears.
“The bulk (of employment costs) is from Education where we have about 140 000 for both primary and secondary and higher and tertiary education. Next is the health sector with around 40 000. These are sectors we would not want to touch in terms of their establishment. We hold pole position in education in the continent and we must maintain that. But it doesn’t mean we cannot rationalise them.
“As far as Government is concerned, we regard education and health as the biggest investment because our biggest asset is our population. Consultations are under way on options to reduce the wage bill. But let me say the solution won’t be an overnight thing, but gradual. It will take place over a period. We are going to tackle this problem squarely and bravely,” said Minister Chinamasa.
He urged opposition legislators to acknowledge the existence of illegal sanctions and the harm they have caused to the economy.
He said it was disturbing to note that MDC representatives claimed there were no sanctions on Zimbabwe yet the countries that imposed them acknowledge their existence.
Minister Chinamasa said while the European Union had removed some individuals and companies from its sanctions regime, it was insignificant as long as the First Family remained sanctioned as it sent wrong signals to would-be investors about Zimbabwe.
He also said one of the major changes that would be introduced in the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was to give line ministries the right to determine compliance mechanisms since they were more knowledgeable about the sectors that fall under their ambit.
Several committees that presented their budget analysis acknowledged economic hardships that the country operated under which made it difficult for Treasury to manoeuvre in budget allocations and disbursement.
The portfolio committee on Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment chaired by Gokwe-Nembudziya legislator, Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena, said while the national cake was small, it was important that it be shared among competing national needs and demands.
“Funds voted for various sectors under the Ministry should be disbursed and not just remain figures on paper,” said Cde Wadyajena.
“Diamond mining companies that pledged funds towards the Community Share Ownership Schemes, should own up to their commitments.
“Vocational Training Centres should be innovative enough in generating their own funds, for example, through the carving of furniture, poultry, rearing of livestock, piggery, dress making, metal fabrication and horticulture, among other projects.”
The portfolio committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture chaired by Zanu-PF representative for Hurungwe West, Cde Themba Mliswa, said while the ministry maintained the number one ranking in terms of vote allocation, more than 98 percent of the money went to employment costs.
“After careful consideration on submissions by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the Committee strongly recommends the following: the Ministry should urge redirection of the former incentives to priority projects, given the large amount budgeted for rentals ($1 million), progressive building of offices will, in future, eliminate the rental expense.
“The amount intended to be used for car hire is quite high. As such the Ministry is encouraged to find ways of making cuts on this budget item. The recently completed centre in Norton should be used by ZIMSEC to generate revenue in the hope of making the entity self-sustaining.
“Exploration of joint ventures and partnerships in school construction to ease pressure on Treasury. The amount allocated to special needs education is grossly inadequate. An urgent upward revision is needed,” said Cde Mliswa.