via Civil service balloons to 550,000 workers 16/12/2014
TREASURY chief Patrick Chinamasa has been forced into a U-turn and plans to cull the civil service next year as it emerged the cash-strapped government employs half a million workers, contrary to estimates of about half that figure.
“It is understood that the Government workers’ establishment rose from about 315,000 in 2009 to about 554,000 this year,” the government-owned Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of his 2015 national budget presentation, Chinamasa admitted to International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials that he was embarrassed that staff costs were gobbling up about 75 percent of government revenues.
“I am embarrassed that our wage bill is some 76 percent of whatever revenue we receive. It’s not good, it’s not sustainable,” Chinamasa said during a meeting with IMF official Domenico Fanizza.
But mindful of the political costs of further job losses in a country said to have 80 percent unemployment, the minister resisted pressure from the IMF to retrench.
He said his target to reduce the government wage bill to about 30 percent of revenues by 2018 would be achieved through growing the economy and, consequently, widening the tax base.
And when he presented his 2015 national budget, last month Chinamasa revealed that 81 percent of the his anticipated $4,1 billion revenues would go to staffing costs.
“What this means … basically is we are paying people to sit in their offices and not to undertake the operations,” he added.
The number of civil servants has previously been estimated at just over a quarter of a million, a significant portion of the figure allegedly comprising “ghost workers” said to be unemployed Zanu PF activists getting gratuities from the state for helping keep the ruling party in power.
However, speaking to legislators Tuesday evening, Chinamasa hinted at a mass staff cull in the civil service early next year.
“Employment cost is a problem we cannot continue to postpone,” the minister was reported as saying.
“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 key health and education sectors would however be ring-fenced from the retrenchments.”
He added: “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,” he said.
“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.”