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Minister pours water to salary-increase hopes

Business

…as transport, water, electricity and food price hikes loom

Mohloai Mpesi

A move to have the civil servants’ salaries increased was rejected by the Ministry of Public Service in parliament yesterday.  

This comes after the ministry received a question that demanded to know whether the minister responsible for the ministry, Keketso Sello is aware of the rampant increase in prices of essential supplies which include food and fuel on almost daily basis while the salaries of civil servants have not been adjusted in a long time.

The question posed by Member of Parliament for Malimong Leshoboro Mohlajoa, sought to find out if Sello will exhaust any measures to intercede in the matter, more so when the civil servants’ salaries have not been reviewed in response to the inflation that has been intensified by inter alia the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is despite the fast accruing fuel prices that currently amount to M17.30 per liter for petrol and M17.65 per liter for diesel.

This follows reports that the Muela hydropower station situated in Butha-Buthe contemplates an upsurge of tariff which will indirectly enforce all the entities like Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) and Water and Sewage Company (WASCO) to increase their prices.    

Whilst for WASCO, the company has already filed and submitted an application to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA), a request for an increase on tariffs to 15% on both volumetric tariff and standing charges in December 2021 for the year 2022/23.

As if that was not enough, a hike in taxi fares is also being mulled at the rate of 100% by April after the Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO) filed a request to the Ministry of Transport for consideration, only a few months after the last public transport price hike which was effected last year November.   

This expounds the amount of struggle that the civil servants have to face in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic mounted with lockdowns and movement restrictions. 

The appeal to have their salary structures reviewed after missing the 2020/2021 increment, nosedived because Sello told the National Assembly that the crippled national economy does not permit any salary increment until the next three years after the government has completed negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to aid with reparation of structures and economic challenges.          

“The Minister of the Public Service is aware that the salaries of Civil Servants have not been increased since 2020/2021 budget speech due to the following reasons; Lesotho’s economic performance has been negatively affected by slow moving global economic growth and the declining revenue collection from the South African Customs Union (SACU). Therefore, this has posed a great concern to the Government as the wage bill far exceeds the capital budget.

“It is worth noting that much of Government salaries are largely funded from the SACU revenue and the current status is that the collection is low below the actual personal emoluments on a quarterly basis and this poses a threat to national reserves,” he said when addressing the National Assembly.

“In the advent of declining SACU revenue, Lesotho realised a further relatively small revenue base between 2019 and 2021 forced by the effects of the pandemic and very large deficits which are not sustainable. The discussions are going on between the Government of Lesotho and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help redress the structural and fundamental economic challenges that the country faces as well as restoring the microeconomic stability. The program will run for three years after which salary review will then commence, this will be subject to the outcome of the structural adjustment program,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Members of Parliament who amount to a part of the society already receiving handsome salaries and benefits received a bonus to their packages in the form of M 5000 monthly allowances said to be for covering their transport needs while already receiving no less than M 30 000 in monthly salaries.

The public service accounts for a great percentage of the national workforce.

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