The government has no choice but revisit the recent salary awards and proposed wage and recruitment freeze planned for the next two years.
It is clear that the wage increment has created serious imbalances within the public sector which imbalances are likely to reverberate across the entire economy. Therefore the sooner government takes a holistic approach on wages and incomes through a comprehensive policy, labour instability will continue and the private sector can also be expected to start agitating for a compensatory differential to bridge inflation.
The public sector must also be seen in the context of local government and quasi governmental institutions that depend on government for grants. Many of these have complained of being sidelined in the overall award. Unfortunately most councils are as of now unable to pay wages and have been in arrears for varying periods some up to three years as the case has been with western province. These councils have failed to pay modest wages and are unlikely therefore to raise the requisite finances that will match the 200 percent wage increase offered to main line civil servants.
The obvious result will be conflict giving rise to labour unrest and strikes. These strikes can be avoided just as the strikes by nurses and medical workers can also be avoided if attention was paid to detail and practicality of the increase offered thus far.
There is no doubt that government may not be able to sustain a budget structured and almost totally dependent on borrowing. This is a recipe for fiscal disaster which this country can ill afford and yet the motions have already been put in place and reversing them will take super human effort.
There is an obvious predilection towards populism that is likely to drive the government into further debt in order to assuage and pacify public workers at the expense of the rest of the nation.
This easy route should be avoided because more people will be made to suffer in order to appease a few.
Public indignation against first republican president Kenneth Kaunda’s language is understandable. His tone and choice of words was truly ancient and a sad reminder of the one-party era when he could call people names as he was the absolute ruler.
His minders must realize that times have changed and that dictatorial language has no place in a liberal democracy where freedom of expression is the norm rather than the exception.
Therefore to suggest that President Sata’s critics are less than human shows that he belongs to ancient history. In this day and age every citizen counts and the measure of leadership is not in how citizens are oppressed but rather how diversity is managed to create a compromise that best suits and meets the interests of all Zambians.
K.K. must know that modern politics thrive on diversity and inclusivity rather than exclusivity. In this dispensation there is no room for insults. Every policy position must be measured and therefore defended on the basis of its soundness rather than by the might of those who pronounce it.
Long gone are the days when might was right. In the modern era the right is might.