Source: Editorial Comment: Govt must strive for policy consistency | The Herald September 15, 2016
GOVERNMENT this week provided a foothold for its critics by showing some level of policy inconsistency within the establishment.
The contradiction, arising from differences regarding proposals to suspend annual bonuses and salary reduction for civil servants, provided those who seek to derail Government programmes with some measure of ammunition.
We do not expect that from Government, controlled by a majority ruling party.
We expect cohesion, shared vision and common purpose. Barely five days after Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa announced measures to cut the public expenditure, including job cuts and annual bonus freeze for civil servants, Cabinet shot them down.
And this is worrying given that civil service rationalisation has been on the cards for a long time.
His proposals to reduce salaries and allowances by 5-20 percent starting with deputy directors to ministers effective October 2016 and forgoing the 2016 and 2017 bonus were understood to be in line with the Government’s thrust to rationalise public spending.
The move, he argued would save Treasury around $180 million per annum, which will be channelled towards essential expenditures relating to drought mitigation. Minister Chinamasa’s statement had received traction coming as it does on the basis of liquidity challenges the country is facing.
However, a reaction from Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Chris Mushohwe that while Minister Chinamasa’s proposals were indeed tabled before the Cabinet, they had not been approved, poured cold water.
As such, the proposed measures should not have been factored into the Mid-Term Policy Statement because Cabinet had rejected them.
Dr Mushohwe assured civil servants, farmers and the public at large that the proposed measures were not “friendly operative”.
“It is hoped that this clarification puts to the rest anxieties that may have arisen within civil service, the farming community and public at large,” according to Dr Mushohwe.
However, this reaction created more anxiety than Minister Chinamasa’s proposals.
The private sector, which has carried the nation through difficult operating environments over the years through corporate and other various forms of taxes, had welcomed Minister Chinamasa’s bold move.
Economic analysts had also voiced support for the measures viewing them as long overdue seeing that the country could not continue spending money it does not have.
These policy somersaults are a cause for concern. How do policies originate, pass Cabinet and end up in Parliament without Cabinet approval? We pose these questions because we do not want Government to appear to be contradicting itself. It is our prayer that these policies be dealt with behind the scenes before being announced so that we do not provide fodder for the enemies of the State.
Policy consistency is the hallmark of team work. Inconsistency certainly erodes confidence. Zimbabwe is working on improving ease of doing business and to normalise the relations with the international community. The country is also in need of foreign direct investment.
Inconsistency will make policy making lack credibility. Policy flips flops and contradictory approaches negatively affect implementation of Government programmes.
We need to stress that rebuilding confidence is not an overnight thing. It is time consuming and the better the Government takes a better approach in reconciling the contradiction.