Some Gweru residents have welcomed the city council’s proposed budget for 2014 in which rates and tariffs will remain the same.
Gweru City Council treasurer, Edgar Mwedzi, last week told residents that council has drawn up a $36 million budget, a slight increase from the current $34 million budget.
Mwedzi also revealed that council would cut 50 per cent of all bills owed by business and industry.
Chairman Cornelia Selipiwe of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association (GRRA) is one of the residents who gave the budget a thumbs-up.
John Tekere, the chairperson of the Hawkers and Vendors Association of Zimbabwe, also praised the council for keeping 2014 rates and tariffs at the same level as those of this year, saying this would help his members remain in business.
Nyengeterai Machaya, women’s secretary in the Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Enterprise Association, echoed similar sentiments, noting that the council’s move not to raise rates and tariffs is a good example of having a pro-poor budget.
“Things are very difficult especially for us women who are in the informal sector. It’s tough to be able to raise money to pay rates and tariffs for our houses, to pay school fees for our children, as well as the licences for our vending stalls. If council raises the rates and tariffs life becomes unbearable,” said Machaya.
Mwedzi said council has not yet come up with a plan of how to clear the city council’s budget deficit, adding that the local authority will no longer approach commercial banks for loans as it has done in the past because the interest rates, which are between 16 and 25 per cent per annum, are too high.
Mwedzi said council is hoping that the country's economy will pick up, allowing the city to borrow cheap money from the government.
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce’s chairperson for Gweru District Wellington Chinembiri, described council’s slashing of outstanding business people’s bills as a “double-edged sword.”
He said while it would provide some welcome relief to the businesspeople and industrialists, it could impact negatively on service delivery.
But Selipiwe says if council works together with residents, they can help it to come up with viable ways to clear its deficit and ensure that service delivery is not affected.
A subdued economy is affecting the country’s local authorities’ efforts to raise revenue and deliver adequate services to residents. The credit crunch affecting local authorities has also seen central government failing to come up with the national budget.