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Zimbabwe Announces Massive Pay Raise for Armed Forces, Teachers

The Zimbabwe government has announced a massive pay raise for crucial public-service employees, mainly for security services and education. Zimbabwe inflation is nearly 1,000 percent a year, the highest in the world.

Zimbabwe Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and top soldier General Constantine Chiwenga were among officials making the announcement of increased salaries of up to 300 percent.

The increases will be paid out next week and will affect about 80,000 members of the security services, including the army, and about 110,000 teachers.

Their monthly pay will go up to between $272 and $330 a month.

All public servants had a pay raise in January of about 230 percent. Mid-year increases are usually awarded before elections, but Zimbabwe's next national poll is only due in 2008.

In the past few months, President Robert Mugabe has put the security forces, including army generals, in charge of much of the country. For example General Chiwenga now has oversight of tax collection.

Economist Daniel Ndlela, said the increases would make a difference for a month or two, but would then be overtaken by inflation. He said the inflationary spiral is out of control, and the government had awarded the pay increases because it is panicking.

He said the government feared, for example, that without the immediate pay increase, a growing number of teachers would choose to stay at home rather than report for work because of the cost of transport.

He also said the inflationary impact of the increases would be felt immediately.

Apart from inflation, which most economists say will reach more than 1,000 percent in April, more than 70 percent of Zimbabweans are unemployed.

Prices of basic commodities go up every day and commerce and industry are shedding jobs continuously according to a range of employers in the main urban areas.

Many political analysts and commentators say that Zimbabweans are moving to a point when spontaneous reaction to the spiraling cost of living cannot ignored.

Nine years ago several people were killed in central Harare during demonstrations against sudden hikes in the price of food.