Editor's note : A good editorial in the Daily Nation on an important issue. It is telling though that the Daily Nation believes that it has to quote the World Bank to substantiate a very basic point. It is a shame that 50 years after independence an opinion carries more weight when it is buttressed by foreign organisations and not poor ordinary Zambians. As I have repeatedly said Zambians have to learn to increasingly think for themselves if the country is to move forward. It would have made more sense to quote a Zambian education institution on these issues. Where are the academics?
Apart from all other negative influences that have driven the Kwacha into a free fall is the unmanageable wage award granted to public service workers which has driven the cost of Government beyond acceptable limits.
Close to 52 percent of Government expenditure is now being spent on personal emoluments of public service workers who are receiving salaries far in excess of employees in the private sector whose taxes fund the Government!
This has created a situation where there is very urgent need for the Government to institute a wages and incomes policy in order to bring sanity into the sector which has been bedeviled with huge disparities, some of them, totally outrageous.
The worst part is that public wages have outstripped the private sector by far.
This would have been acceptable if the wage increase was meant to change the public sector into a productive efficient and result oriented institution. This is not the case.
Instead we still have the same lethargic public service which is now costing the country even more, a whopping 52 percent of Government expenditure.
The World Bank has rightly weighed in on this matter and has noted that Government expenditure may not be reigned in for as long as the huge award remains outstanding- if anything public service unions are now agitating for the removal of the wage freeze!
The Government will find it very difficult to resist the pressure because precedence has already been set by the President and his constitutional Office holders who have increased their emoluments three times in the last two years and their wages are not modest by any stretch of the imagination.
The truth of the matter is that public sector institutions including donor supported organizations are now excelling in giving their workers lucrative conditions of service compared to the private sector which must struggle to earn every single kwacha.
This situation is not tenable. Sanity must be brought to bear and the only way this can be done is by instituting a wages and incomes commission that will ensure parity in wages while appreciating efficiency, grading of jobs and general performance in relation to national resource allocation.
The Government has a duty and responsibility to ensure that citizens are adequately compensated for their effort in the work place. This should include ensuring that public resources are treated with the requisite stewardship.
Our appeal is for Government to urgently institute measures that will cap and then spread incomes to take account of the national needs requirement. At the same timer compensation should be linked to performance and productivity.
The ordinary farmer in the village who toils to produce a bag of maize must receive adequate compensation equal to his effort, just as the office assistant in Government who earns about K2,000 a month.
Nobody will begrudge Government from rewarding its officers adequately to ensure the retention of qualifies and dedicated employees but this should not be at the expense of the entire economy as the case seems to be developing at the moment.
It would in fact have been more useful at the very beginning of the huge salary award that Government should have insisted that the salaries were tied to retention, motivation and indeed encouragement of e public service workers to enhance effectiveness in service delivery and improved productivity.
As it stands the wage increase was a political ploy that had no basis. The result however has been a dramatic shift in Government expenditure which has negative effects on the economy of the country.