Mutare tables US$14.96 million budget

MUTARE City finance committee chairman Tatenda Lovemore Nhamarare has presented to council a US$14.96 million budget proposal for 2010 that has raised the ire of ratepayers here over proposals to commit nearly half of revenue to wages and salaries while leaving very little for capital projects and service delivery.

Nhamarare last week told council that 46 percent of revenue was earmarked for employee remuneration, warning that the wage bill could rise further as workers were agitating for more pay. Initial employment costs previously estimated at about 46 percent of the total budget are likely to make a jump as a result of employees agitation over a salary and wage hike, Nhamarare said. The finance chairman said the wage bill swallowed the bulk of revenue last year leaving council struggling to raise cash for road maintenance, water provision, refuse collection among other basic services, adding that the council faced the same situation against this year.

The sad thing about the 2009 budget was that a greater part of the recurrent expenditure was employment costs which constituted about 81 percent of the total costs. We are likely to see the same structure being perpetuated in the 2010 budget and beyond, he said. The Mutare Residents Association (MRA) and Manicaland Business Association (MBA) condemned which they said totally ignores the interests of ratepayers. MRA co-coordinator David Mutambirwa said, it is devoid of the residents and ratepayers interests and needs as it is expenditure oriented. As residents we will ensure during consultations we shoot it down if it remains as such. MBA chairman Patrick Matsanga said the consumption oriented budget appeared to ignore the need to stimulate economic activity and growth in the city which would help expand the revenue base for council.

The 2010 budget lacks depth (and fails) to realise we need capital projects and investment for the increased revenue base for the cash strapped city. If the councils main concern is their workers salaries, then there are doing a disservice to the financially hard-pressed businesspeople and residents, said Matsanga In his report on the citys finances last year, Nhamarare said the council failed to invest in infrastructure necessary to create an enabling environment for business to thrive so that revenue base increases and makes it easier to finance budget deficits created by expenditure on capital projects. He said the council failed to meet revenue targets for 2009 and raised fears that it might also fail to meet targets for this year.

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