MAPUTO, The Mozambican government has introduced austerity measures to trim expenditure on the perquisites and privileges of high ranking State officials, says Minister of Economy and Finance Adriano Malaeiane.

Speaking to journalists after the weekly meeting of the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) here Tuesday, Maleiane said the cuts were expected to result in savings of 7.2 billion meticais (about 120 million US dollars) in 2018.

One of the largest savings is on rent. As the government does not have enough houses of its own to accommodate senior officials, up until now it has put them up in hotels, or private rented accommodation at enormous cost. The new government decree, Maleiane said, fixes a basic sum per square metre for rented accommodation and this is expected to save the State budget an estimated 1.1 billion meticais a year.

Officials can no longer expect that their jobs will entitle them to travel in the latest model of Mercedes-Benz limousines and Maleiane said the State would now only use cars with an engine capacity of between 1,300 and 1,500 cubic centimetres (cc).

It will also end the long-standing scandal of buying cars with the sole purpose of selling them at a discount to officials for their personal use. Instead, when an official takes office, he will be granted an allowance to spend on whatever he likes, a car or other goods.

Maleiane did not say how much this allowance will be, but he said the measure would allow the State to buy only the vehicles that it really needs.

Officials will no longer have unlimited access to fuel and communications. A ceiling is set at 5,000 meticais a month for the fuel allowance, and 10,000 meticais for communications (essentially on mobile phones). The sum of 10,000 meticais is two and a half times the statutory minimum wage in the public administration which currently is 3,996 meticais a month.

The limits on fuel and communications allowances will save the state 245 million meticais over the year, Maleiane said.

The decree also eliminates an irrational special bonus granted to officials merely because they have completed a mid-level or higher education courses, regardless of whether the degree they obtain is of any relevance to their work. The allowance will now go to officials who already have an established career in the public administration, thus rewarding experience rather than an academic diploma.