Zimbabwe to soldier on with local currency though it is under attack




econet
Ziyambi Ziyambi

Zimbabwe will not dollarise and will continue to use its local currency but it has been forced to pay civil servants part of their salaries in United States dollars because its currency is under attack, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi who is also leader of government business in Parliament said yesterday.

Responding to a question from Citizens Coalition for Change vice-president Tendai Biti on why the country was not simply dollarising because people’s incomes were being eroded, Ziyambi said the local currency was under attack because of sanctions on Zimbabwe.

He said civil servants were being paid part of their salaries in US dollars because the government was mindful of their plight.

“We are giving a component in US dollars and another one in Zimbabwe dollars.  We are mindful that because of our situation, our currency is the easiest target, hence we decided deliberately as a policy to pay a certain component,” Ziyambi said.

“I am aware that there are negotiations that are going on in terms of ensuring that we come up with an agreement on a salary structure that will be given.  We have already acknowledged that because our currency is under attack, we are giving a certain component as US dollars.”

Ziyambi, however, said Zimbabwe will continue to use its own currency.

“We will continue to soldier on despite the fact that those that are calling for the return of the United States dollar are the ones that made sure that we suffer so that they can scream on top of their voices….

“Hon. Speaker, the effect of sanctions is to ensure that the people suffer.  If you take for instance any country and you compare it with Zimbabwe in terms of ease of transacting with the whole world, if you do a business transaction in Zimbabwe, for example you send money to China and somebody in Zambia sends to the same company, money from Zimbabwe will take a week or two and from Zambia it takes two days.

“The net effect of that is, our economy will be in slow mode because of the sanctions and the growth of our economy is different from any other country.  Our ability to pay will now be retarded because of our failure to have a throughput that is fast.

“My call to him (Biti) is, if you want us to pay decent salaries, let us have a level playing field whereby we can trade equally with anyone and our economy will be able to pay all our civil servants comparable to anyone in the world.”

Q &A:

HON. BITI:  My question is to the Leader of Government Business in the House in the absence of the Minister of Finance and Economic Development who you did not excuse when you read out a list of apologies.

Mr. Speaker Sir, the cost of living is rising exponentially.  The cost of basic commodities like cooking oil, bread, milk and rentals is rising.  Equally, the consumer basket has now gone up.  For a family of six, it is now in excess of $120 000.  Only yesterday the official exchange rate was 145, but in shops…

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Hon. Member, couch that in a question.

HON. BITI:  My question to the Hon. Minister of Finance and Economic Development, through the leader of the House is that with the cost of living rising exponentially, with the exchange rate depreciating, the parallel market rate is now close to 300, what are you doing to the plight of civil servants, teachers, nurses, doctors, judges, magistrates, bus drivers, Speaker of Parliament, Clerk of Parliament, staff at Parliament, Members of Parliament who continue to have their salaries being eroded by the rambunctious inflation and the depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar?  Why do you not just dollarise the salary of the Speaker, the Clerk, civil servants, teachers, doctors and nurses?  I thank you very much Hon. Speaker Sir.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Order Hon. Member, there is no need to mention specific people.  Just simply say the public, it is enough.

HON. BITI:  But I was making a case for your salary too.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  I want to thank the Hon. Member.  Mr. Speaker, it has become a perennial question asked by Hon. Biti every time he has been in this House.  Having said that Mr. Speaker, we are not discontinuing the use of the Zimbabwean dollar.  What we are alive to is that the fundamentals that have to support our dollar are there but because we have a situation in this country whereby we have sanctions and those sanctions directly attack our currency, we will continue with the policies that we are making to ensure that we strengthen our currency and review the salaries of our civil servants.

I am aware that the Minister of Finance and Economic Development has been reviewing the salaries of our civil servants.  He has given allowances in United States dollars to cushion but what we are doing is, we will continue with the use of our dollar.  We will continue to soldier on despite the fact that those that are calling for the return of the United States dollar are the ones that made sure that we suffer so that they can scream on top of their voices.  I thank you.

HON. BITI:  Thank you Hon. Speaker.  The question to the Hon. Minister is, what effective measures are you taking to ensure that the civil servant is decently rewarded in view of the high cost – [HON. TOGAREPI:  Ndiwe wakaisa masanctions acho.] – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – My question to the distinguished and esteemed Minister is, what measures are you taking to effectively cushion the worker, the civil servant against the falling exchange rate and the cost of living that is rising exponentially–[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Order, order!  Can we allow the Hon. Minister to respond – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – Order, order! Hon. Biti, do you want your question to be answered?  Withdraw!

HON. BITI:  I withdraw Hon. Speaker.

THE MINISTER OF JUSTICE, LEGAL AND PARLIAMENTARY AFFAIRS (HON. ZIYAMBI):  Hon. Speaker, the effect of sanctions is to ensure that the people suffer.  If you take for instance any country and you compare it with Zimbabwe in terms of ease of transacting with the whole world, if you do a business transaction in Zimbabwe, for example you send money to China and somebody in Zambia sends to the same company, money from Zimbabwe will take a week or two and from Zambia it takes two days.  The net effect of that is, our economy will be in slow mode because of the sanctions and the growth of our economy is different from any other country.  Our ability to pay will now be retarded because of our failure to have a throughput that is fast.  My call to him is, if you want us to pay decent salaries, let us have a level playing field whereby we can trade equally with anyone and our economy will be able to pay all our civil servants comparable to anyone in the world.  Thank you.

HON. T. MLISWA:  I have a point of order Hon. Speaker.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  What is your point of order?

HON. T. MLISWA:  Mr. Speaker Sir, my point of order is, first of all, I think the Government Chief Whip must show maturity and behave appropriately in respect of his office. Kana murume mukuru akutema matombo, vana vadiki vanotanga kutemawo matombo.  It requires him to be calm, composed and not to make the task very difficult.  Secondly Mr. Speaker Sir, the President in the Second Republic said that Zimbabwe was open for business.  I am sure the aspect of sanctions was factored in.  We talk about a $12 billion economy in terms of the mining sector, withstanding sanctions.  If we go back on sanctions, I do not think we will make progress at the end of the day.  The truth of the matter is that, Notwithstanding sanctions, we have come up with a roadmap which should make sure that there is transformation.

The President, at no point has he even spoken about sanctions.  He has continued to advocate for transformation through our resources that we have, resource mobilisation.  The question here is pertinent in saying that Vision 2030 is also premised outside sanctions.  So, I do not see the Vision 2030 where the President says with sanctions – no he leaves them out knowing very well they are a hindrance.  The hindrance has not stopped us from breathing.  Ministers must respond to simple questions and not take them to a different level because we sit here Mr. Speaker Sir and I think ZANU PF which is the ruling party is well-equipped to deal with this.  No wonder why the President appointed a competent Minister of Finance.  We see his competence at some point.  People are suffering and that is true.  If you bring in the aspect of sanctions, we are contradicting ourselves.

The Leader of Government Business said the civil servants were paid in Zimbabwe dollar and they were paid in US dollar and that is a contradiction.  We are pushing for the Zimbabwe dollar but we are paying the US dollar.  Is that not an admission that the US dollar is supreme?  When we talk about pushing the Zimbabwe dollar agenda, why are we paying our civil servants in US dollars?  Why can you not pay in Zimbabwe dollars consistently?  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.

THE HON. SPEAKER:  I thought the point of order raised by Hon. Mliswa did clear issues accordingly.  Notwithstanding the sanctions, transformation is taking place.  That is what he said.  The Hon. Minister says there is light at the end of the tunnel.

HON. MATEWU:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  My supplementary question to the Leader of Government Business is that just recently, a Monetary Statement was put out by the Hon. Minister for Finance.  In that, he basically liberated almost every company to use the US dollar.  If we are paying our civil servants and our pensioners in the Zimbabwean dollar, what is Government policy in terms of controlling the fiscus and the money that is going to be given to our civil servants?  Basically, you are saying on one hand, all the other companies and entities can now charge their businesses in US dollars yet you continue to pay everyone else in Zimbabwean dollar.  The pensioners who are the people struggling in this country are also being paid in Zimbabwean dollars.  What is your policy in terms of alleviating and reviewing the terms of payment to our civil servants so that you can liberate to say the Government can now pay their salaries in US dollars?  Thank you.

HON. ZIYAMBI:  Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  I am sure when the Hon. Member receives his first pay slip, he will notice that there is a US dollar component there.  So, it is not correct to say our civil servants are receiving their salaries only in Zimbabwe dollar.  We are giving a component in US dollar and another one in Zimbabwe dollar.  We are mindful that because of our situation, our currency is the easiest target, hence we decided deliberately as a policy to pay a certain component.  I am aware that there are negotiations that are going on in terms of ensuring that we come up with an agreement on a salary structure that will be given.  We have already acknowledged that because our currency is under attack, we are giving a certain component as US dollars.  Thank you.

HON. CHIBAYA:  Thank you very much Hon. Speaker.  The issue of cost of living affects both workers in the public sector and private sector.  My supplementary question to the Hon. Minister is …

THE HON. SPEAKER:  Can you be connected please.

HON. CHIBAYA:  Hon. Speaker, the issue of cost of living is affecting employees in the public and private sectors.  Why is it that the Government is not revisiting the issue of minimum wage in line with the poverty datum line.  I thank you.

HON. ZIYAMBI: Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir.  Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of a policy shift where we no longer have a minimum wage.  I thank you.