Give civil servants all their forex: banks told

Banks have been directed to allow civil servants to withdraw their US dollar bonus payments in full, without deduction or levy so that they benefit over the festive season, Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube said yesterday.

He intervened after reports that some unscrupulous banks were trying to make civil servants and Government pensioners accept bonus payments in Zimbabwe dollars.Civil servants’ representatives had told The Herald on Thursday that their members were being levied high bank charges while being made to wait in queues for long despite the availability of the foreign currency. Some banks are apparently trying to recover account charges for the foreign accounts kept open since the allowances last year.

But in a statement yesterday, Prof Ncube said: “All civil servants should be allowed to withdraw their bonus payments in full in United States dollars, subject only to existing daily cash withdrawal limits set by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Such bonus payment amounts are to be made in full without deduction or levy.”

Prof Ncube said Government and banks will agree a structure for bank charges for the specific amounts, which charges must be kept to a minimum.“In this regard, Government is appealing to the banks for their usual support and cooperation in ensuring that the payment of civil servants’ bonuses is implemented smoothly,” he said.

President Mnangagwa offered civil servants and pensioners a once-off bonus payment in US dollars to cushion them from the challenges they faced for the better part of the year due to inflation.Civil servants are getting a maximum of US$700 in US dollars and those whose salary scales require more than that will get the difference in local currency at an agreed rate.Pensioners are getting US$100.

Prof Ncube said for the better part of the year, Government was seized with various initiatives to continue stabilising the economy, contain inflationary pressures, and therefore restore the purchasing power of the local currency.

The primary goal was to increase the domestic and external competitiveness of the economy, save and preserve jobs and livelihoods and limit damage to the economy particularly in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.He said macro-fiscal stabilisation has been achieved largely through fiscal consolidation and the resultant attainment of both fiscal balance and stabilisation of the current account.

Prof Ncube said Government was grateful for, and fully recognises the sacrifice and cooperation of all Zimbabweans in the effort to stabilise the economy, which is now on a firm foundation for growth.

“To further consolidate gains made in reducing inflation from a peak rate of 875 percent in July 2020 to less than 55 percent currently, recognising the cyclical nature of annual price hikes whenever we approach the payment dates for civil servants’ bonuses, the Government of Zimbabwe decided to pay the 2021 bonuses for all civil servants in foreign currency,” he said.

“As of 30 November 2021, bonus payments in foreign currency have been effected for all civil servants and pensioners through their banks.

“However, it has come to the attention of Treasury that some banks are compulsorily liquidating civil servants’ bonus payments and thereby forcibly paying them in domestic currency. In addition, banks have resorted to making arbitrary charges against the bonus payments with some taking significant portions of the wages in the form of bank charges.”

Prof Ncube said the practices were aimed at taking away the intended benefits of the US dollar bonus payments. -Herald

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