BULAWAYO – Government must step in and assist Bulawayo revive its development and service delivery momentum lost during uncertainty created by the July election campaign, a city council official has said.
Presenting a $156 million budget, councillor James Sithole, the chairman of the Finance and Development Committee, said the new government had a challenge in that a number of issues confront sustainable economic growth.
Lack of domestic liquidity, high interest rates, lack of resources to rehabilitate infrastructure and depressed industrial capacity posed as hurdles to growth.
“The harsh economic conditions prevailing in the country and the sluggish performance during the run-up to the 2013 harmonised elections affected the 2013 budget implementation as elections took centre stage,” Sithole said.
“Soon after the elections, investors seem to have adopted a wait-and-see attitude as no meaningful investment has been recorded in the city so far.”
Government is struggling to maintain a stable economy since the government of national unity was dismantled after the July 31 elections and this has affected council’s projected budget proposals.
Sithole said soon after the elections the number of investors in the country decreased. Low economic standards have affected council’s budget, the councillor said.
“The economy is still characterised by low aggregate demand, low wages, low capacity utilisation, low productivity and high levels of unemployment, these factors have a negative impact on council’s budget performance,” he said.
He said the council however plans to boost the diminishing economy through a strategy that seeks to improve the economic vibrancy of Bulawayo, to reverse the negative business trend and make the city a region’s tourism and business destination of choice.
It strives to respond to the apparent decline and near collapse of service delivery and the diminishing confidence of investors, stakeholders and residents.
“The council strives to fulfil and protect the rights and expectations of its rate payers and communities and restoring of robust infrastructural base while addressing the lack of significant, sustainable local authority financing and long term funding of council programmes,” Sithole said.
He said council expected governments to help them in the year 2014.
“The economic outlook in 2014 will largely depend on government direction that is yet to be clarified. Council appreciates government efforts aimed at the revival of industries in the city and looks forward to their implementation.
The defunct government of National Unity availed $40million under the Distressed Industries and Marginalised Areas Fund (Dimaf) but confusion over the disbursement of the fund frustrated re-industrialisation efforts, to Council’s disappointment, he said.
Sithole said consultations concluded that council must prioritise water, sewerage, health, housing, roads, education, public lighting, social services, fire and ambulance.
The budget presented to the residents saw the revenue budget being reduced from $123 million to $113.76 million, while the capital budget also went down from $45 million to $42.4 million.