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Will civil servants rejoice in 2018?

Last week’s legislative victory for the ruling NRM, which removed age limits for presidential candidates and extended the term of office of the current parliament from five to seven years, capped a tumultuous 2017.

Buoyed by that victory, the ruling NRM, going into 2018, could be too eager to push through another legislation that would extend the presidential term of office from five to seven years to align it with that of MPs.

If that goes to a referendum, it would be another pricey political project. But as NRM leaders seek to cement their hold onto power, they must remember the challenges of the outgoing year.

The last part of 2017 has seen government hit with a string of strikes. The most memorable and crippling one was the doctors’ three weeks’ sit-out in November and the rambling prosecutors’ strike.

The nurses threatened but were calmed down with promises of improved pay. Teachers also threatened industrial action.

To restore calm, government has committed to introducing a holistic salary review for all civil servants. A leaked report by the salary review commission suggested some interesting packages.

Going into 2018, government shouldn’t be tempted to renege on those promises and, instead, spend more on its political agenda in the hope that it will fire-fight whenever challenges arise.

Strikes, more so, of doctors and judicial officials, have proven to have a paralysing effect on the governance of this country.

And they can also be a lightning rod for civil unrest. If civil servants and the general populace continue to feel mistreated or neglected, government’s much-trumpeted fight against rampant corruption and improving service delivery will remain a pipedream.

Very poorly-paid public servants will continue to steal public funds and, in the process, cripple service delivery. In the end, the common man will continue to suffer.

We are headed into another budgeting cycle and civil servants hope to see a pay raise announced next June at the reading of the national budget.

Another cry of no money from government wouldn’t be tolerated, especially in the face of huge expenses on politics and governance. Until then, the waiting continues.

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