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Covid-19: Public service wage bill needs serious attention – PM

The Namibian economy is expected to implode further as all sectors take a blow from the Covid-19 pandemic, and fears have surfaced over the future jobs of civil servants.
The pandemic and lockdowns will further put a burden on the already cash-strapped government which is already limping with a huge wage bill which takes up 50% of state funds.
But as the private sector drop the knife on hundreds of workers who are being retrenched, will government afford to keep on paying civil servants if the crisis is to drag on?
Prime Minister Saara-Kuugongelwa Amadhila skirted around the question but expressed that the wage bill needed serious attention.
For the Prime Minister, time is everything.
“We are expecting that the Covid-19 itself would eventually start to scale down in terms of the spreading of the disease and we would see the economy going back to normality. That would mean that we won’t have to experience prolonged periods where we are saying people are not coming to work,” she said.
It’s uncertain when the pandemic scourge will end.
In 2018, the wage bill was put at a $N30 billion high from a $N13 billion low recorded from before 2014.
The amount was meant to carter for 170 000 Namibians in the public sector and has never gone down.
PDM Member of Parliament and economic commentator, Nico Smit, said while it would be hard to cut the wage bill at this time, but government missed an opportunity of applying a sustainable solution to the wage-bill headache “during the good times”.
On whether the government will likely cut civil servant salaries to save the budget, Smit said: “under circumstances like this anything can be done”.
Said Smit, “I don’t know by law if they can do it. One must look at the labour law and all those types of things if it’s legal if it can be done. Government has no option. It’s better if I am earning a salary of let’s say N$10 000, it’s better to earn maybe N$6 000. At least get something than to get nothing.

Wonder Guchu

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