Government announces US$520 million salaries bill

Since February this year Zimbabwe’s new coalition government has been paying civil servants a flat monthly ‘allowance’ of 100 US dollars, which many say is too little to feed and clothe their families.

The allowances replaced salaries in virtually worthless Zimbabwean dollars, which the new government suspended and replaced with hard currency shortly after its formation.

Instead of the uniform 100 dollars, civil servants will now be paid according to the demands of their profession. The minister did not give details of the new pay scales, saying only wages had been increased by on average 55 percent.

A source within the Public Service Commission showed the German Press Agency a government document that showed public workers earning between 100 and 200 dollars a month.

Teachers and nurses would earn 155 dollars a month, while a doctor would earn 170 dollars, the document showed.

Mukonoweshuro said the 526-million-dollar salary bill would swallow 52 per cent of the government’s meagre 2009 budget but that government felt the increases were necessary to motivate and retain essential staff.

‘It is a promissory note to show that we are not static… We are moving. It shows that better times lie ahead,’ he said.

The pay levels were comparable to those in neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Zambia, ‘but we can’t be compared with South Africa (Africa’s richest country) yet,’ he said.

At its formation in February, the government led by longtime rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said it needed between 8 and 10 billion dollars for the country’s long-term economic reconstruction.

Donors have offered only a fraction of their demands, saying the government needs to show signs of greater commitment to democratic reforms.