GWERU, MIDLANDS PROVINCE —
Some Gweru residents say they are concerned about the Gweru City Council's proposed budget for 2015 which will see some rates and tariffs increase by as much as 35 per cent if approved at a time ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet with companies closing everyday.
Some residents, who spoke to Studio 7, said the intended tariff increases would worsen the plight of residents who are already burdened by the country's worsening economic problems.
In a meeting Thursday where council unveiled the proposed 2015 budget to residents, finance director Edgar Mwedzi announceds that council has set its provisional budget at $31.8 million for the coming year.
He said if the council continues to charge current rates and tariffs in the coming year, it would get a potential net income of $24 million which would result in a shortfall of $7.7 million.
As a result, he said the council would need to raise rates and tariffs by 35 per cent in order to break even.
Mwedzi said a debt of $9.1 million, arising mainly from the 2013 debt cancellation directive by the Ministry of Local Government, will be carried forward to the next year.
He said council intends to pay off part of the deficit through the intended increase in rates and tariffs.
The city treasurer said in its crafting of the proposed budget, the council took into consideration the economic problems that the country continues to face, adding the local authority had not increased most of the rates and tariffs that affect ordinary people.
But citing the increase of water charges from 60c to 80c per cubic litre, chairperson Cornelia Selipiwe of the Gweru Residents and Ratepayers Association accused council of misinforming residents and lack of transparency.
Former deputy mayor Taurai Demo said while he understood the need for council to collect enough revenue for effective service delivery and the importance of paying off its deficit, the council should not seek to do this by making life more difficult for the already struggling residents by increasing rates and tariffs.
Grace Munanzvi, another resident agreed, saying it's illogical for council to expect residents to be able to afford increased rates and tariffs when most of them have already been finding it difficult to meet the current payments.
Although in its proposed budget council says it will reduce the expenditure on salaries and allowances by two percent from 42 percent, secretary Reward Mhuri of the Gweru United Residents’ Association feels this is inadequate.
He also says the budget cannot be viewed as pro-poor as the initial fees that residents have to pay for vending for example have been increased from $10 to $20.
Despite these sentiments another resident, Taurai Mukarati, said the council has tried its best under the circumstances to strike a balance between residents' plight and the need to collect enough revenues enabling it to operate efficiently.
Chairperson Emilia Chamunogwa of Ward 15 Development Committee echoed the same sentiments.
“I feel that the budget is alright considering the prevailing economic situation. As you are well aware ordinary people are experiencing serious difficulties because of the country's economic problems. So I feel that the crafting of the budget, with proposed increases for some rates and tariffs, was done prudently, bearing in mind the country's economic situation. I think it's a good budget.”
Council is expected to come up with the final budget in December after getting some input from residents and other stakeholders.
Local authorities throughout the country have been experiencing serious revenue problems due to the current economic problems bedeviling the country. The situation has been worsened by the 2013 Local Government Ministry directive that compelled all urban councils to cancel debts owed by residents.