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The wage bill is a topical issue of government expenditure because of two simple reasons. The first is that government cannot afford it anymore because the public revenue base has been eroding, which means government has less money than it used to have before. Secondly, the wages are crowding out other types of government expenditure that could be dedicated to quality service delivery, especially in areas of health, education and infrastructure.


If government can adjust the wage bill into a more affordable and sustainable level, then more money would be free to tar gravel roads, pay elderly grants and provide adequate medication in hospitals, among many other critical service delivery needs. So what is most likely happening is that government operates month to month on a frenzy of collecting the little bit of money that is available to meet the huge salary obligations at the expense of other critical services. To address the issue of the ballooning wage bill, government has two options: One is to adjust the wage bill so that it decreases permanently over time. The other option is to be deliberate and cut down the wage bill by leaning out a lot of government positions to achieve fiscal sustainability. In fact, leaning out the positions is probably the most important aspect of building a more sustainable civil service wage bill.


Government has to be more effective and efficient in implementing the different development goals within a set and sustainable structure. The reality is that the real increase in the cost of the civil service is due to expansion of government positions, the employee head counts. The point is not to put people out of jobs, especially given the fact that most of the civil servants, like many employees in urban areas of Eswatini, provide financial support to rural communities who would otherwise have nothing to sustain their daily needs. Part of the civil service wage bill also contributes to the aggregate demand for goods and services in the economy, and thus prevents the economy from total collapse. So it is clear that we need people working for government, and these employees are also an integral part of the economy, because they too spend their salaries in the economy and thus keep the economy going.

However, the civil service wage bill cannot keep growing forever. More government money needs to be focused on delivering key services that will benefit the nation as a whole.
It makes sense to get loans for some of our capital projects, but it is irresponsible to borrow money just to pay people to occupy offices. Let’s make our money pay for the things that matter, and not to fill pockets that will suck us dry.

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