Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) says the 716 percent increase in tariffs and other service charges by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) is an onslaught against the urban poor.
This comes after the government last month approved council`s $2,8 billion budget for 2020.
As part of the approved budget, rates have gone up by 416 percent.
The latest increase in tariffs and rates has seen the charges go up by 716 percent six months after the local authority initially increased rates by 300 percent in September last year as part of its $507 million second supplementary budget.
In a letter addressed to the Town Clerk, BPRA Secretary for Administration Thembelani Dube said the crafting of the 2020 council budget was not guided by broader macro-economic fundamentals in the country hence the need to set aside the 300 percent increase that was meant for the supplementary budget.
“In line with its mandate, BPRA has been coordinating residents; views and responses regarding the Bulawayo City Council 2020 budget which currently stands at ZWL$1, 351, 058 748.00. While acknowledging the goodwill on the part of council to improve services in the contest of a harsh economic environment, the 716 percent budget increase has been viewed as an onslaught against the urban poor,” said Dube.
“Despite a temporary reprieve to delay the implementation of the supplementary budget, BPRA notes that the crafting of the 2020 budget was not guided by a broader macro-economic fundamental in the country. Residents are already facing serious hardships as a result of the languishing economy, declining real wages and run-away inflation coupled with drastic increases.”
Dube said they conducted postmortem of the budget and it has since emerged from the residents that the budget increase will have adverse effects on residents.
“The increase means that residents will be forced to pay more than 50 percent of their earnings towards utility bills which directly violates the economic principles which recommend that utility bills should not cost more than six percent of one’s earnings for them to be considered affordable,” said Dube.
The resident association added that the new rates fall outside what ordinary civil servants earn and what most residents are able to generate from informal trading.
“BCC should have conducted adequate consultations on the affordability of the budget. The concern by residents is that the 716 percent budget increase did not have their consent. Residents, by and large, voiced their concerns over the increased but these were not taken on board,” said Dube.
He added that the increase in health care costs at council clinics will cause enormous harm to low-income families especially the vulnerable in society.
“Given the rapid increase of health care costs, residents feel that the BCC budget is by and large a cruel health war on the poor. The new rates in council-run clinics will cause enormous harm to low-income families including children, people with disability, expecting mothers, senior citizens and low-wage working adults,” said Dube.