The Sunday Mail
Sometimes it is easy to forget that we are living through one of the most unique periods in world history, especially as a once-in-a-century global health crisis continues to wreak havoc across the world.
In some cases, the fallout from the coronavirus has been dire.
In Ethiopia, for example, where the African Union (AU) sits, it has widened fault lines that already existed in its society, and now the country stands on the brink of what could possibly be a violent conflict.
It is simply heartbreaking!
Even the US, the world’s largest economy, has been reeling.
Last week, it reported that its inflation rate had jumped to the highest level since December 1990 — about 31 years ago — partly because of disruptions caused by Covid-19’s unprecedented impact on global supply chains.
Nations across the world are being affected variously.
Zimbabwe, which is already burdened by the weight of two-decade-old sanctions from the US, UK and European Union (EU), has not been spared.
Most often than not, this burden is keenly felt by ordinary workers, who bear the responsibility of looking after their families, including vulnerable members of society, whose sources of livelihoods have been similarly disrupted.
These people desperately need relief. The Government has since come through.
President Mnangagwa’s once-off gesture to pay civil servants and pensioners their bonuses in foreign currency is a very welcome and truly unexpected relief.
Accordingly, civil servants foreign currency entitlements have been capped at US$700, while pensioners would likely get more than US$100.
It has to be considered that there are many holidays that are sandwiched by the long festive season next month, which often stretch family budgets because of the inherent expectations that cannot be postponed.
That many workers have the added responsibility of supporting the extended family doesn’t make it any easier.
And soon after the festive season often comes the excruciatingly painful responsibilities of a new year that are usually considered by many to be an unwanted seasonal disease — the January Disease.
So, by locking in the value of this year’s bonus in a reserve currency in the form of the United States dollar will go a long way in providing the much-needed cushion.
But the Government’s unexpected gesture shows that the Second Republic does not believe in rhetoric and is committed to follow through its promises.
One of the pledges made in the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) is to regularly review the remuneration of civil servants “to maintain real wage levels”.
The adjustments were, however, premised on the performance of the economy and hence the Government’s ability to pay.
With more than US$7,2 billion having been generated by last month, including less pressure to import grain and cereals owing to an impressive 2020/2021 agriculture season, it, therefore, goes without saying that Treasury has the wherewithal to finance the pay-outs.
Elsewhere in this paper, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube explains that the intervention would help tame inflation, which uncharacteristically began rising in September.
“We did realise that there was an uptick in inflation. As you recall, inflation was down to 51 percent in September, but it ticked up to 54 percent, so we thought it could be a great gesture to civil servants for us to pay this bonus in United States dollars just to cushion them over the next month or two.
“We expect inflation then to fall further as we go to January and February,” he said.
Quite clearly, rising inflationary pressures driven by the progressive slide in value of the Zimbabwe dollar on the parallel market from September could have spoiled the holidays for everyone.
But the planned US dollar payments will have an effective countervailing impact that will sustain consumer demand and consumption during a period that is normally regarded as peak season for most companies.
It will likely give impetus to the encouraging economic growth trend witnessed since the beginning of the year despite coronavirus-induced challenges.
Financial results from Delta last week provided a window through which we can measure the performance of the economy thus far.
As the country’s biggest beverage manufacturer, the company reported that volumes had risen across its product lines in the six months to September.
Volumes for fizzy drinks notably almost doubled from the same period last year.
Overall, although the Government is facing extraordinary odds and has a lot on its plate in terms of pressing commitments in a country that intends to catch up with the rest of the world after decades of stunted growth, it still cares enough to remember civil servants, who are putting their shoulders to the wheel to make Zimbabwe successful, and vulnerable groups that also need its support the most.
This is the real meaning of Government of the people for the people.