BY Stephen Chadenga

Gweru residents will have to absorb a massive increase in tariffs next year if the council’s proposed $2 billion 2020 budget is approved by the Local Government ministry.

The local authority has proposed a $2,2 billion budget up from this year’s $46 million, with the burden expected to be passed on to the already financially struggling ratepayers.

In a financial statement to the proposed budget, acting finance director, Owen Masimba said in coming up with the proposed budget, council had considered budgeting for capital projects which have previously been suspended and also the prevailing exchange rate which has seen the skyrocketing of procured goods needed for service delivery.

“The 2020 budget proposal is based on the need to budget for capital projects which have been suspended,” he said.

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“This is also based on actual quotations we got from suppliers using the prevailing exchange rate. This year’s budget is $46 million because when we did it the exchange rate then was 1:1. But since we are now using our local currency, the budget proposed is $2, 292, 117, 879.”

He said they had to use the inter-bank rate in calculating the budget since goods and services were also increasing at that rate.

Masimba said while council was trying to have a pro-poor budget, it was driven by the prevailing market forces to finance its operations.

“Before the removal of the 1:1 exchange rate by the government, we were paying $221 000 for our electricity bill, in September it was $1,1 million and this month it’s at $2,9 million. (On) water chemicals, we had budgeted $26 000, but we have been quoted $1,2 million,” he said.

“We were also charged for three broken pumps an equivalent of US$40 000 for repairs done in Harare and now to redeem them that company is asking for $948 000, which is far (more than the previous) amount. So while we try to be pro-poor we are working with what is prevailing on the market.”

But Gweru Residents Forum director, Charles Mazorodze said council should not expect residents to foot its budget increase through high tariffs as they (residents) were already struggling to pay the current rates. Mazorodze said council was not a money-making organisation, but should rather implement strategies that generate income instead of relying on ratepayers.

“The budget increase from this year to next year’s budget is by more than $1,9 billion,” he said.

“Obviously the burden will eventually fall on already struggling residents, who will have to brace for massive rates hike. But we are saying when city fathers hold their strategic meetings to run the city they should always think outside the box. They need to come up with income-generating projects.”