eThekwini budget to prioritise infrastructure, service delivery backlogs

Durban – The bulk of eThekwini Municipality's budget was expected to be spent on infrastructure and dealing with service delivery backlogs, municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole said on Monday.

The City tabled its R41.6bn draft budget at a full council meeting at the end of March, and on Monday it was unpacked for the business community at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.

Sithole said that, of the total budget, R34.9bn would go towards the operating budget and R6.7bn to the capital budget.

"It can't be business as usual in the way that we are managing the economy."

Sithole said there was an emphasis on job creation and youth development.

The City was also working on a programme to develop 10 000 artisans over the next three years, Sithole said, adding that the project would cost in excess of R750m over that period.

"We have introduced a student relief bursary scheme for higher education students who cannot afford to register."

He said the budget had grown from the R39.1bn in the current financial year, to R41.6bn.

"Our capital spend will go towards infrastructure and unlocking economic development opportunities.

"The proposed tariff increase for electricity is 7.64%, and we are looking at 12.5% for domestic water usage and 15.9% for business. This is driven by the fact that new dams need to be commissioned."

Refuse removal would go up by 7.9%, sanitation by 9.9%, and rates are, on average, 6.9% higher.

'Money will have to be found somewhere'

He said interventions had been put in place to address the drought.

"The commissioning of the western aqueduct next year will help in terms of helping alleviate the situation. We are losing revenue of about R200m because of new energy saving interventions."

Sithole said the City had plans to improve the lives of those living in informal settlement.

He said the City would also be implementing austerity measures.

"There has been a lot of criticism on the Nicki Minaj concert, but the City is aware that it has to cut down the costs and make sure that we live within our means."

With regards to sporting events and conventions, Sithole said: "If our stadiums are not hired, it means that it is a sunk cost. The same applies with the ICC. But we will be looking at what the benefits of hosting these events are."

On Durban hosting the Commonwealth Games, he said the City had made a commitment and R500m would come from metro coffers, and the rest from the province.

"I know that they have said that they don't have the money, but a commitment is a commitment. The money will have to be found somewhere."

He said wi-fi access would be expanded to public spaces, schools and rural areas.

Mayor James Nxumalo said the budget was expected to be approved in May.

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