THE PF have only increased civil servants’ salaries by eight per cent as an inducement to get them to vote for the ruling party at next year’s general election, says Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) vice-president Leonard Hikaumba.

Commenting on government’s eight per cent salary increment for civil servants, Hikaumba, the veteran trade unionist, dismissed the marginal increment as too insignificant to withstand the country’s economic downturn where the cost of commodities were too high amid double-digit inflation.

“Looking at the economic situation, and when you marry it with the current economic situation looking at the depreciation of the kwacha, the inflation rate, these two factors one would expect that a significant increment should be given to offset the impact of the kwacha’s depreciation and also the rising inflation rate. So, when you look at the eight per cent salary increase, it is below the inflation rate, meaning that the workers’ salaries or incomes will not be brought to the level where they can match inflation. So, on that basis, you will find that the salary increment is really below the optimal level, one would expect more,” Hikaumba said in an interview.

“Looking at the economic situation again, which to some extent it is not only attributed to the COVID-19, but it is also attributed to some lapses in the planning of those in government, we realise that it is true that COVID has some negative impact, the onset of COVID found our economy already going down. If you look at some economic parameters, you would see that the economic growth has really been insignificant in a few years. The economic growth rate has been below five per cent for more than three years now. If we look at the kwacha (exchange) rate, it has been going down for the past six years. So, to attribute that to COVID, it is a misplacement. Inflation rate has been rising, the MMD left it at one digit figure, but it has been rising until now it is at 17.4 per cent. So, it means that there is something wrong in the economic planning and implementation.”

He also questioned the timing of the salary increment, saying the decision to increase was designed to entice citizens to vote for the PF next year.

“Even this increment that has been given, ordinarily, this is the time that government would have been thinking of a wage freeze. But going by the facts on the ground, they have given an increment because of the elections that are coming. They know if they don’t give an increment next year, it is trouble for them. So, if they did not give increments when the situation was a little bit better, what has motivated them to give the increments now?” questioned Hikaumba, a former Zambia Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president.

“So, the motivation is the elections, which are coming next year. That should not be the basis of giving increments, it should be something that must be done in good faith, it should be done in realisation that workers need to be motivated. It should be given in realisation that cost of living is high and the workers need to be cushioned. Considerations that are not done in good faith will not do us any good. All in all, the increment is not adequate to undo what has not been done before the years that government did not give increments. It is only reasonable to the extent that the economy is doing very badly.”