By Omar Bah
Momodou Sabally, a former director of budget, has urged the government to swallow its pride, scrap the salary increment plans and apologise to civil servants because it is unsustainable.
Last year, the government announced it will introduce a new grading system and pay scale with a significant upward revision of salaries to commensurate with increasing cost of living starting this July.
The news was welcomed by the civil servants, majority of who are below the poverty line.
The delay created fears in the civil service who were eagerly waiting to have a glance of what would be added to their salaries.
The government has however restored hope after it was announced that the National Assembly will convene an extraordinary session tomorrow to consider an emergency proposal to increase salaries for civil servants as part of the revised 2022 budget.
But speaking to The Standard yesterday, Sabally, a former Secretary General, said: “The only way out of this macroeconomic quagmire is to scrap the whole project and apologize to the public service. Anything short of that will only create further macroeconomic instability and dysfunctionality of the civil service. The macroeconomic consequences are quite obvious in terms of its inflationary impact and a net worsening of public welfare.
The move is not only unsustainable; it is clearly counterintuitive and grossly disingenuous.”
The former GRTS boss said whilst he acknowledged the need for sustainable pay rise, he has always differed with the Barrow administration’s “irrational exuberance” when it comes to salary increases that are not backed with sustainable and clearly defined additional sources of revenue.
“To be fair to the current Finance Minister, he inherited this bad situation from his predecessor who made this promise and had to back track to announce delayed implementation to July due to a clear lack of resources,” Sabally said.
He said the current plans to cut down “other charges” in the budget to finance the salary increase within a highly tight budget constraint is “tantamount to taking away resources that are to be used for government staff to function in their offices and adding it to their pay; thereby rendering the staff redundant because they cannot perform their function as the already limited resources classed in the budget under ‘other charges’ are used to raise their pay”.
“I think the government had good intentions to increase salaries; but due to poor planning, they need to eat the humble pie and admit that they cannot fulfil their promise due to obvious macroeconomic constraints.
“So, the government got it wrong at the get go when they made the announcement of a salary increase without identifying and detailing additional sources of revenue to finance the obvious rise in budgetary expenditure this would create. A government that is living on borrowed funds and confronted with unsustainable public debt has no business increasing its expenditure in a troubled global economic framework,” he added.
Sabally said he had also warned the government in an open letter addressed to the then Finance Minister, Mambury Njie in 2018 about their planned 50 percent salary increment.
“Government went ahead with their decision and consequently the Finance Ministry hiked up excise taxes on beverages to the effect that our trademark world renowned Banjul Breweries had to close shop and lay off hundreds of staff. The move further helped to get the economy into a wage-spiral to the high level of double digit reaching 11.7% as at end June 2022; unprecedented during the past 20 years,” he argued.