Residents of Joburg are being asked to comment on the city’s latest budget proposals – and they probably should.
The city councillors propose awarding themselves a 6.4% pay increase this year, while multiple surveys show that most South Africans are bleeding as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The city’s electricity rates are budgeted to increase 8.1% this year, and water and sanitation by 8.6% each. Property rates are budgeted to increase 4.9% but could end up increasing 7% for some.
This might pass unnoticed in any other year, but not in the midst of an economic crisis. And certainly not when you have participative democracy campaigns being run by the likes of Dear South Africa and the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa).
Startup incubator 22 on Sloane believes more than 55 000 SMEs in SA will not survive Covid-19, with at least 43 000 employees in those businesses set to lose their jobs. The African Management Institute (AMI) found that 87% of small businesses in Africa fear they may fail. Business For SA says up to four million jobs in SA could be lost.
Not a pretty picture.
Outa project manager Tim Tyrrell says the budget is an insult to the sacrifices made by city residents who have endured salary pay cuts, retrenchment, or the closure of once-vibrant businesses in the name of flattening the curve.
DearSA campaign head Rob Hutchinson says the budget proposals show extreme insensitivity for the pain being felt by all South Africans and Joburg city residents in particular. “This is especially true at a time when the city’s infrastructure has not been properly attended to for years.”
Particularly worrying for some is the increase in the base electricity charge, which could mean some households end up paying 40% more, and the scant relief for Covid-19, for which the city has made a R140 million provision.