Treasury has budgeted for an increase in salaries and allowances for President Robert Mugabe and his two deputies — Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko — despite calls for belt-tightening measures in government due to worsening fiscal pressures.
The country’s top three civil servants are likely to gross a combined US$672 000 this year, up from US$624 000 last year, according to the revised edition of the 2017 National Budget estimates of expenditure, otherwise known as the Blue Book.
This would represent a 7,69 percent increase.
In a United States dollar environment, such an increase is quite significant. It is way above annual headline inflation, which has remained in the negative territory, averaging –1,56 percent in 2016. Officials at the Finance Ministry have been reluctant to take questions from the Financial Gazette on the issue for the past three weeks.
For instance, Patrick Chinamasa, who superintends over the country’s financial levers, has neither been responding to text messages sent to his mobile phone nor returning calls.
Willard Manungo, the permanent secretary in the ministry, has also been evasive, referring this reporter to his subordinate in the ministry, who could not give responses to questions sent to him by the time of going to print.
In 2015, President Mugabe indicated that he was earning US$12 000 per month, including an allowance of US$2 000. He is obviously now earning much more in terms of both his salary and allowances.
Former finance minister, Tendai Biti, described the revised salary and allowance budget for members of the presidium as unsustainable.
“How can the President of Zimbabwe earn more than the Prime Minister of Britain? It’s ridiculous. The British Prime Minister presides over an economy worth US$3 trillion; our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is a paltry US$10 billion. This economy cannot sustain those obscene salaries. I used to pay him US$4 000,” said Biti, who was finance minister during the inclusive government (2009 to 2013).
Currently, British Prime Minister, Theresa May, earns an annual salary of US$273 330,72 at the ruling exchange rate. This includes her salary as a Member of Parliament.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who oversees an economy whose GDP is in excess of US$11 trillion, gets just US$1 734 per month.
On average, a civil servant earns around US$300 per month, a figure which is way below the poverty datum line, currently pegged at US$660 for a family of six.
Of late, government has been under pressure from civil servants who are pressing for improved working conditions and better pay.
At the moment, it faces a crippling strike by doctors, with teachers from public schools also putting their employer on notice.
These demands are seen worsening fiscal pressures.
At the moment, government has huge carry-over expenditure demands from 2016, including US$180 million in outstanding bonuses for civil servants.
The costs inherited from last year’s budget constitute what Chinamasa described as “pressure points” for the 2017 National Budget, already understrain from a huge public sector wage bill accounting for over 97 percent of government expenditure. The expenditure demands pushed back into this year include employment cost arrears for the December 2016 wage bill, employer contributions to service providers such as the National Social Security Authority, the Premier Service Medical Aid Society and employee contributions.
The total expenditure demands from last year amount to US$942,5 million.
In fact, some of the outstanding commitments relate to payments due from as far back as 2013