By Zvamaida Murwira
FINANCE Minister Tendai Biti yesterday insisted there is no money to raise civil servants' salaries despite reports that the
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority exceeded its target by 11 percent to reach US$618,9 million for the first quarter.
This also comes after President Muga-be assured civil servants of a salary increment in June as there is significant revenue from the sale of Marange diamonds flowing into national coffers.
Minister Biti, however, yesterday said there was no revenue inflow change, arguing he was still operating on a shoestring budget with a number of competing interests.
In an interview last night, Minister Biti said Zimra's figures were still low to make a significant impact that would warrant a raise of salaries for civil servants.
"You don't need to ask me that question (whether there would be an increment), just look at their (Zimra) figures and see whether it is possible to make an increment. Judging by those figures, is it possible? Do you need to ask me to comment on whether there can be an increment when you have the figures," said Minister Biti last night.
He said the challenge was that many players were politicising the civil servants salary issue.
"The problem is that you have politicised this issue, but the truth is that I don't make money - where do you expect me to get the money?" said Minister Biti.
He denied reports of significant revenue from the sale of Marange diamonds.
"I have not received any diamond money other than the figures I have made reference to.
"The economy is not performing. I presented a US$2,7 billion budget with US$900 million being set aside for civil servants and look at the figures and see what we are getting," said Minister Biti.
However, in his quarterly report, Zimra board chairperson, Mr Sternford Moyo, said revenue collections were performing well against set targets for the period against the constrained economic growth.
In his meeting with representatives of civil servants last month, President Mugabe assured civil servants that there would be a salary review in June.
But Minister Biti has continued to dig in over improving civil servants' salaries citing depressed fiscus.
Minister Biti's position, however, flies in the face of the President and Zimra whose positions had raised the hopes of many civil servants.
He said revenue collection was still below the budget projections of around US$230 million per month and Treasury had no resources to fund an increase of State workers' salaries.
He said Government had collected below the targeted projections and raised fear that at this rate, Treasury could actually be plunged into a budget deficit.
In its report, Zimra said total gross collections for the quarter amounted to US$618,9 million against a target of US$555,2 million.
Value Added Tax and Individual Tax was the largest contributor totalling revenues of US$242,4 million and US$134,1 million respectively.
This was against a target of US$241 million for VAT, and US$105,4 million for Individual Tax.
Last month, President Mugabe promised civil servants a significant salary increase in June this year.
He said workers should expect an increase of about 100 percent of the current earnings. That would see the lowest paid Government worker earning half of the poverty datum line that is slightly above US$500.
The least paid State worker is taking home about US$130 per month yet.
There are conflicting reports on how much the Government is earning from the sale of the alluvial Marange diamonds.
Early this year, Mines and Mining Development Minister Obert Mpofu said Government had remitted US$174 million to Treasury, while Minister Biti only acknowledged receiving only US$60 million.