Mbabane: The Swaziland National Association for Teachers (SNAT) says they are expecting the Finance Minister Neal Rijkenberg’s budget speech to focus on five under listed sectors among others.
Rijkenberg is expected to deliver his budget for the year 2021/2022 this coming Friday. The budget takes place under different circumstances, with an economy that has been hard-hit by COVID-19 pandemic.
The union which represents about 16 000 educators in the country says it will be waiting for the Finance Minister’s 2021 National budget with bated breath.
The five under listed expectations include the wage bill, salary review (SR), education sector, health sector, and infrastructure.
SNAT back dated the issue of wage bills to 2013 where by the then Minister of Finance Majozi Sithole grumbled about a huge Wage Bill. Consequently, to that, there was a Skills Audit Exercise that was then commissioned in 2013 which sought to identify causes of the massive wage bill, chief amongst which was the issue of ‘ghost employees’ in the Civil Service.
In a statement issued by SNAT Secretary General (SG) Sikelela Dlamini on Tuesday, February 24, the educators’ union revealed that the report for that exercise (Skills Audit Exercise) was never published and yet tax payers’ monies were used during the exercise.
SNAT says this time around they were expecting a clear report in terms of how this issue will be addressed in the current year (2021) so that there could be enough resources that could be available to fund other equally important public services.
According to SNAT, this financial year, 2021 is supposed to be the year where there will be another salary review following that one which was signed in 2016.
SNAT said since E850 million was used to implement recommendations of the 2016/2017 Salary review, albeit partially, this year 2021, it was expected that a total of E2 billion shall be set aside the finance minister to cater for the salary review exercise.
This money shall be used to normalise the so many grievances that arose as appeals to the 2016/2017 salary review exercise such as normalising the salaries of School Administrators in both primary and secondary schools, normalising the salaries for Head of Departments in schools, housing allowances, commuting allowances, introduction of medical aid for government employees and the hardship allowances for all civil servants who work in remote areas.
The teachers’ union added that they were expecting that the ministry of education to get a lion’s share in the national budget which translates to 15 percent of the total national budget. They said this is an international benchmark.
However, SNAT said they were expecting this amount to exclude personal cost (salaries), as it is supposed to be the case. According to the union, this money shall be directed to procurement of educational resources and materials of all kinds.
The SNAT is expecting a total budget of E3.5 billion (excluding salaries). This money will be expected to cater for such things like Free Primary Education (FPE), Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC), Competency Based Education (CBE), rolling out of grade 0 in all schools increasing from the current 80 schools.
SNAT is expecting the money to be used in constructing more schools and classrooms in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) and National COVID-19 regulations. SNAT says this will be more a very important major step in the right direction if the country is to be set in the correct trajectory that will make it fully developmental state.
The SNAT said they were expected a budget of not less that E3 billion of the ministry of health. The money should not include personal costs (salaries) as well, instead it should focus on further capacitating the health institutions and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health professionals who have since become the country’s frontline workers.
On the infrastructure sector, the teachers’ union sang a different tune altogether as they expect the government to change priorities more especially during this era of COVID-19 pandemic. SNAT said capital project that consume a lot of money from the government’s purse and yet do not bring direct benefit to individual Emaswati, such as the International Convention Centre (ICC) must be suspended. The SNAT said all this expectations were not crafted from the air but careful considerations were made, weighing the importance of any of these sectors in the up liftment and protection of the lives of the individual EmaSwati.
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