Govt should prioritise civil servants’ salaries

Friday December 29 2017

By Editor

Media reports that the government has not provided money for pay raise for civil servants in the 2018/19 Budget does not augur well for the country. While the Ministry of Public Service had proposed that it required Shs1.8 trillion under the pay raise reforms, the money has not been catered for in the 2018/19 Budget. The ministry had also proposed Shs3.6 trillion over the next four years, but this is also now hangs in the balance.
It should be recalled that the year 2017 was largely characterised by civil servants resorting to industrial action over low pay and poor working conditions. Doctors under their umbrella body, the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), nearly grounded health sector operations countrywide when they laid down their tools on November 6 though they temporarily called it off on November 26.
This was after the government appealed to them to be patient and wait for the Salary Review Commission report upon which all civil servants’ salaries would be addressed. “We have talked to government and they have assured us that consultations to address our demands are going on,” UMA president Dr Ekwaro Obuku said then as he announced resumption of work.
Others like teachers, State prosecutors, judicial officers, lecturers, etc, have all gone on strike at different times to demand salary increment. In all these cases, the government negotiated and made specific promises pegging hopes on the 2018/19 Budget.
Therefore, media reports that government says there is no money for civil servants’ pay raise in the next Budget, might provoke and escalate strikes in the country next year. There is fear that if government reneges on its promises to improve civil servants’ salaries, the economy will have to contend with strike disruptions.
To settle the situation, the government should act firm and fast. It should make good of its hakuna mchezo declaration and not merely use it as a slogan. First, it should end the rampant corruption and save money for improving civil servants’ salaries.
Secondly, it should trim the bloated public administration. For instance, of what use are the nearly 80 Cabinet ministers, more than 430 Members of Parliament, so many presidential advisers, RDCs and their deputies, etc? Run a slim government, save money and use it to improve civil servants’ salaries. Lastly, cut down the number of agencies in the country and rechannel the budgetary allocations to them for improving public servants salaries.
Failure to tackle these teething issues, will make civil servants doubt whether the government lacks money or it simply doesn’t give priority to public service.