In a bid to persuade over 45,000 Zimbabwe Teachers’ Association (ZIMTA) members who plan to go on a nationwide strike today to rescind their decision, Biti said there was no fiscal room for the inclusive government to increase anyone’s salary because it was broke.
Unless there is a dramatic improvement in the economy and revenue improves by 300 per cent, we have no fiscal space for a salary increment at the moment. Even the President is currently earning US$300 and we can’t draw water from stones. The economy is not performing,” he said.
ZIMTA members threatened to launch a nationwide work stoppage as the new school term begins today, pressing for salaries better than the average of US $155 they are currently earning.
Biti, however, pleaded with the teachers to remain patient while the economy got back to its feet, noting that the government was concerned with their plight.
“Our main priority is to pay the civil servants and from the time we announced salaries for the civil service, about 70 per cent or two-thirds of the budget has gone to pay our workers,” he said.
He said in July this year, the government recorded its highest revenue inflows of about US $90 million but 65 per cent of it went to salaries.
“We paid around US$52 million for civil servants’ salaries and the rest has to go to hospitals for drugs, the various embassies across the world, food, and inputs for agricultural activities, among other expenses,” he said.
Biti said there were 236,000 civil servants and if all were paid the lowest desired wage of US$400, the government would have to spend more than US$94 million per month.
“There is no money and government is currently operating on a cash budget,” said Biti.
The inclusive government started paying civil servants salaries in July. Between February and June, civil servants had been earning an allowance of US $100 across the board after the country switched from the Zimbabwe dollar to the US dollar.
During that time, the government’s wage bill accounted for 35 per cent of total expenditure and 13 per cent of estimated Gross Domestic Product.
Effective July 1, Biti set aside an additional US$14 million per month over and above the budgeted US$34 million per month for salaries to support implementation of modest salaries up to December.