This country is in desperate and urgent need of a National Salaries, Wages and Income Commission.
The disparity between the haves and have not’s, between the highest paid and lowest and indeed between what people earn from the public service is ever widening to the detriment of the majority of Zambians.
When oil prices increased recently Ministers and senior Government officials enjoyed an automatic income adjustment to their earnings to cushion them. A proportional increase in their fuel allowance was effected to ensure that they were not “disadvantaged”.
Not so with the rest of population. At the lowest end of the population, the peasant farmer must now absorb the increased cost in transport and of goods and services they use.
A little earlier too, public service workers received a whopping salary increase that will see the lowest paid worker earning about K3million a month. This works out at about 46 bags of maize, which an ordinary peasant farmer is most unlikely to produce and yet he is expected to live on the meager income from the fields.
What is most unfair is the fact that the increase in public service workers salaries means an increase in Government expenditure on emoluments which in turn means that the delivery on social services will be affected.
Instead of increasing the public purse for communal good, the removal of subsidy on petroleum products will instead mean a diminution in the available resources meant for public good.
The nation actually still has to be informed of the full implication of the recent public service wage increase on the national treasury.
What has become increasingly clear is that the income disparity has widened even further. The gap between those in Government service and those in the private sector will grow exponentially in September when the public service wages will take effect. This will have a pulling tendency which the economy must brace for.
As soon as the public service wages hit the banks, inflation can be expected to increase substantially. This will put pressure on private sector employers to increase wages and ultimately the wage scenario will become all the more complex and volatile.
The tragedy is that, as Government will be the lead factor, this increase will not be matched by production, it will simply represent additional capacity to consume. This will present a standard economic paradigm, namely more money chasing the same amount of goods. The result is obvious.
Ultimately the inequality between public and private sectors will have to be bridged, meaning that private employers must increase prices to raise enough money to pay higher wages.
In all this the peasant farmer will suffer the most, considering that his capacity to increase income is almost non-existent.
That is why we are recommending for a Salaries, Wages and Income Commission that will attempt to make sense of our economy in relation to what will be prevailing salaries for those in full employment, wages for those paid by the hour and income for those who may be engaged in meaningful production including peasant farming where none of the latter apply.
There must be an effort to bring some equity in the market to ensure that equal effort will realize the same benefits. It is not fair that some individuals in Government or indeed parastatal organizations earn about K200million a month while the small scale farmer earns less than K10million a year.
Apart from the superficial, both have the same needs and will undoubtedly require the same resources to meet them hence the need for an equitable formula.