MAPUTO, Mozambican Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosario says the increase in the statutory minimum wages decreed last month, although not at the desired levels, are what is possible in the current economic situation.

He said this parliament in response to questions from opposition deputies, who said that the new minimum wages do not meet the needs of Mozambican workers.

The increases range from 5.5 to 21 per cent, depending on sector. According to the Bank of Mozambique, the latest annual inflation figure, covering the period April 1, 2016 to March 30, 2017, is 21.57 per cent. Thus all of the wage rises are lower than the rate of inflation, and amount to a cut in real wages.

Nonetheless, Rosario insisted that fixing minimum wages through the Labour Consultative Commission (CCT), the tripartite negotiating forum between the government, the trade unions and the employers, is a mechanism that ensures protection of lower paid workers.

Negotiations in the CCT, he said, guarantee sustainable wage adjustment, without endangering the continuity of operations of enterprises.

However, the lowest of the new wages, for agricultural workers, is 3,642 meticais a month, equivalent to 56 US dollars. The unions estimate that to purchase a basket of essential goods and services for a family of five, the minimum wage should be 16,000 meticais a month.

Rosario said the wage rises were influenced by the economic slowdown of 2016, when Mozambique’s annual growth rate fell to 3.3 per cent. He blamed this on natural disasters, notably the drought which hit much of southern and central Mozambique; on the fall in world market prices for some of the country’s main exports; on the attacks by gunmen of the rebel movement Renamo on the main roads, which limited the circulation of people and goods; and on the suspension of general budget support by Mozambique’s co-operation partners following the April 2016 revelations of over 1.1 billion USDin previously undisclosed debts.