Government is firmly pushing for budgetary discipline that makes public workers’ clamour for strikes and unbudgeted salary increases detrimental to efforts to heal the nation’s economic woes, Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe has said.
He said at a press briefing he jointly held with Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa this week, that the bitter reality is that the Cashgate scandal, exposed last year which resulted in K20 billion of public resources being plundered, has left government cash-strapped, especially after donors also withheld 11 percent, and not the purported 40 percent, of their budgetary support to Malawi.
Gondwe explained that while the government is actively tackling and revamping the public finance management systems, to prevent a recurrence of the Cashgate-like looting, it is also bent on harmonising salaries as a way of instilling discipline, fairness and motivation among civil servants and their colleagues in parastatals and other public service organisations.
He said there has been a disparity in salaries, whereby a driver in a parastatal organisation could be paid more than a teacher or a graduate in the civil service, or, in some cases, some heads of parastatals were being paid more than the Vice-President.
“It is public order and harmonisation that we are trying to achieve. The old salaries were very much disjointed,” Gondwe stated, adding that it is greed for anyone to press for heftier pay packages without considering fellow workers who have soldiered on despite much lower salaries.
He said some of those who enjoyed better pay packages, including the Judiciary, were on strike or were planning to go on strikes, demanding much higher salary increases than those the government had set.
“If we were to do that, the policy of harmonisation would not be achieved. The strikes are not only doing damage [to development], but also the budget will not take it—we do not have the money to do this,” Gondwe stated, expressing hope that those striking will see reason and get on with nation-building.
On the push for financial discipline, he stressed that the government is not pursuing this to prevent donors from walking away from it because of fraud or corruption whittling away donor aid.
Said Gondwe: “We are there so that the resources we get are not uselessly plundered. We are there so that the resources we have are spent on things that Parliament decides on.”
He explained that he was not surprised that President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima, over the weekend, had deferred proposed 80 percent salary increases that could have seen them earning K2.7 million and K1.8 million per month, respectively.