By Felex Share
HARARE- The government has changed pension and pay dates for all civil servants with effect from this month to allow it more time to mobilise funds amid liquidity constraints on the market. The dates have been pushed forward by an average five days.
Public Service Commission secretary Mrs Pretty Sunguro said in a statement yesterday that Treasury had revised the dates due to “liquidity challenges”.
“In a Press statement released on 25 January 2012, on post-budget developments in the economy, the Minister of Finance cited liquidity challenges, adding that these had resulted in congestion in the RTGS payments as well as shortage of cash in some banks.
“In support of overall measures being instituted to address the said challenges and to increase the period for the mobilisation of resources as well as bank transfers, Treasury revised the Government pay dates.”
Mrs Sunguro urged civil servants to take note of the new dates. “The situation leading to the revision of the pay dates was beyond the control of the Public Service Commission. Any inconvenience caused by this shift is sincerely regretted.”
A PSC source yesterday said the decision to move the pay dates forward follows a request by Treasury.
“This was caused by pressure of the resources . . . to lighten the burden on Treasury, it was agreed at the highest level to move the pay dates. It has nothing to do much with the salary increment. Traditionally, this period up to almost mid year, revenue inflows into the Treasury will be very low,” said the source.
The source said in the banking sector, there was no movement of cash due to liquidity challenges, adding that most payments were paper transactions. The Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe recently confirmed the liquidity challenges and has recommended the repatriation of funds being held by foreign-owned banks in offshore (Nostro) accounts.
BAZ said the move will improve the tight liquidity situation pervading the economy. Most banks have been failing to fund Real Time Gross Settlement transfers since December. Foreign-owned banks holding huge balances from local depositors’ money include Barclays, Standard Charted Bank, Stanbic and MBCA.
The four banks hold an estimated US$450 million in offshore accounts and BAZ has proposed that at least US$200 million be repatriated to Zimbabwe. Banks hold Nostro accounts to meet clients’ cash obligations in foreign countries. The banks take deposits from locals and the funds in Nostro accounts are used in productive and economic activities of the foreign countries.
It is believed repatriating the funds will enhance liquidity, especially at a time when the central bank is financially incapacitated to help as a lender of last resort. BAZ has since held meetings with President Mugabe, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and Reserve Bank Governor Dr Gideon Gono.
Members of the army usually received their salaries between the 11th and 12th day of the month. Those in the education sector got theirs between the 16th and 22nd of the month while the rest of the civil service got their salaries between the 19th and 22nd. Pensioners, who usually received their monthly dues around the 20th, have been pushed to between the 27th and 28th.
The Government recently offered civil servants US$240 million to increase their basic salaries, housing and transport allowances. This saw the Government wage bill rising to US$269 million per month, up from US$249 million. The new salary structure, to be effected this month, was backdated to January this year.