High interest rates stall capital projects in Bulawayo


The Bulawayo City Council has failed to implement major capital projects over the last three years because of high interest rates and the reluctance by financial institutions to offer long-term loans.

This has resulted in a deterioration in service delivery by the council but the council has in turn been reluctant to ask its cash strapped residents to fund the capital projects.

The chairman of the council’s finance and development committee, Phil Lamola said only 21.5 percent of the capital budget was spent in 2002. This declined to 9.6 percent of the capital budget in 2003 and so far this year only 0.3 percent of the $180 billion capital budget has been spent.

Lamola said he council had spent $579.9 million on capital projects by August and hoped that at most it would pent $12.6 billion by the end of the year which would represent only 7 percent of the capital budget.

Lack of funds have resulted in a deterioration in service delivery with the council now taking up to a month to repair potholes on major roads instead of just seven days. It is now taking up to four month to repair minor roads instead of 14 days.

Though its target for backlogs on sewer chokes is only five at any given time, the average backlog is now 26.

While 88 percent of faults on pubic lighting should be attended to within 24 hours, it is now taking up to a month to rectify them. Council is only attending to 60 percent of the reported faults.

But cash is not the only problem. The council has been hit by an acute staff shortage which has seen almost all key departments operating below par.

The council only has 12 engineers instead of 30, five town planners instead of 11, and three land surveyors instead of five.

It has a staff of 628 in its health service department instead of 1 128.

The fire and ambulance services department has 38 employees instead of 51. Supporting staff stands at 218 instead of 319. The council is operating with only 14 ambulances instead of 30, three water tenders instead of eight.

It has 11 refuse trucks on a daily basis instead of 21.

But despite this gloomy picture executive mayor Japhet Ndabeni-Ncube was upbeat that the “City of Kings” would grow from strength to strength and become a leader of local governance and excellence.

“Bulawayo will not be allowed to fail,” he said. “There are no forces that will fail or falter the City of Bulawayo. …Mankind is not born with finances, but mankind is imbued with knowledge, skills, brains and the wherewithal to acquire finances.”

It is against this background that the council has proposed a $326.97 billion capital budget for next year. The bulk of the money, $127 billion, has been set aside for sewerage works.

Lamola said $35 billion from the sewerage budget would be used to upgrade sewerage ponds at Cowdray Park while $15 billion would be used to rehabilitate the Southern Areas Sewerage Treatment Works.

He said $73 billion had been set aside for the Northern Areas Sewerage Treatment Works to enable the council to provide more houses in the area.

Any further housing development, he said, could only start after the construction of the Northern Areas Sewerage Treatment Works or the expansion of the current Cowdray Park ponds.

Other projects planned by the council include the upgrading of White City Stadium at a cost of $3 billion, rehabilitation of roads which is expected to cost $23.8 billion, the construction of three new primary schools and at least 150 houses, and the servicing of 300 stands.

The council has also proposed a $775 billion revenue budget for next year, which will see tariffs increase by 150 percent in January and by a further 100 percent in July.

The budget is still awaiting government approval.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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