Govt wage bill down by 1.8%
MBABANE – The Ministry of Public Service has revealed that the government’s monthly wage bill has gone down by 1.8 per cent so far this year.
The monthly wage bill, for a long time, had been about E350 million per month to pay about 37 000 civil servants. It has, in fact, been one of the biggest financial drains on government coffers.
However, the ministry noted a slight decrease as the current month (June) begins. Felton Mhlongo, acting Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service attributed this to the non-replacement of people in certain posts, retirements and resignations.
"In January this year we recorded a decrease of 1 per cent and very recently we noted a 0.8 per cent decrease. So the total is 1.8 per cent so far. We are not satisfied by these figures because it shows that the rate is very slow," said Mhlongo.
He added that the Enhanced Voluntary Early Retirement Scheme (EVERS) remained the ultimate key in making a huge impact in as far as reducing the wage bill was concerned.
EVERS is a government programme aimed at reducing the wage bill and is restricted to public servants, and also has guidelines, criteria and eligibility.
It was approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which was asked by government to provide technical assistance. The Fund does not assist government anymore because government failed to carry out what it had set out to do, like reducing its staff by 7 000 by the first quarter of this year. The reduction of the wage bill is necessary to take government out of the financial crisis currently experienced.
"We are waiting for the availability of funds from government to start the scheme," he said. Government has to provide a budget of E202 million for this endeavour. Furthermore, the targeted total of employment positions to be abolished through the scheme is 1 800.
Magobetane Mamba, Minister of Public Service, was quoted earlier this year in the ministry’s first quarterly report having said, "Without reducing the wage bill, the economy would collapse." The report also mentioned that one of the reasons there were many people in the service was that some avoided retiring at the age of 60 years because they were not ready. Some went to the extent of altering their birth dates.
Meanwhile, Vincent Dlamini, Secretary General of the National Association of Public Service and Allied Workers Union (NAPSAWU) said he was glad that government had used other means to lessen the wage bill other than retrenching people.
"You don’t necessarily need salary cuts to reduce the wage bill. As far as EVERS is concerned we don’t know anything, yet, about the package. If it will be attractive then there won’t be any problems," said Dlamini.
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