City of Windhoek defends tariff increases

06 Jul 2013 04:00
WINDHOEK, 06 JUL (NAMPA) - The City of Windhoek (CoW) on Friday brushed off claims that its recent tariff adjustments only target a certain segment of the population.
The adjustments include an 8 per cent increase on the electricity tariff as approved by the Electricity Control Board (ECB) and 15 per cent increases on sewerage, basic water, water consumption, property tax and household refuse removal tariffs.
The adjusted tariffs, which were announced by the City of Windhoek last Thursday, became effective on 01 July this year.
The new tariffs have not been well received by Windhoek residents, with many complaining about it on social media platforms and on the Short Message Service (SMS) pages of local daily newspapers.
Earlier this week, the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna) called on President Hifikepunye Pohamba to put a moratorium on such increases by municipalities until the state of emergency caused by the country-wide drought is lifted.
Tucna Secretary-General Mahongora Kavihuha said at a media conference here recently the increases will severely affect the most vulnerable members of society.
On Friday, CoW Corporate Communications Manager Joshua Amukugo dismissed the accusations, saying the tariffs will affect low, middle and high-income households.
Amukugo said the proposed tariff increases will affect the average low-income household by 9,36 per cent, or N.dolllars 52,64; a middle-income household by 8,61 per cent or about N.dollars 120,37; and a high-income household by 7,81 per cent or around N.dollars 252,52.
?This is not the ideal situation the City wants for its residents and we understand clearly the difficulties experienced in terms of affordability of services,? he said.
Amukugo explained that several factors, including inflation rate fluctuations, the rapid urbanisation rate, unemployment, rural-urban migration and increases in prices by bulk service suppliers such as the Namibia Water Corporation (NamWater) and national power utility NamPower influenced the tariff increments.
The CoW Corporate Communications Manager further stated that the City of Windhoek, as a local authority, has a gigantic task - that of enhancing the quality of life of all its people by rendering efficient and effective municipal services, ?provided that the resources are available to carry out this mandate?.
He said he found it disheartening to learn that members of the public were not impressed by the City's tariff adjustments which are ?aimed at breaking even in a situation created by external factors?.
CoW Finance Strategic Executive representative, Deon Gerber then stated that every tariff increase is an effort to try and lessen the City of Windhoek?s deficit.
?If the deficit is big and we should increase our tariffs by 20 or 25 per cent, that is difficult. We know that we cannot increase our tariffs that much during one financial year,? he noted, adding that the current (2013/2014) budget makes provision for a N.dollars 314 million loss.
?It is not sustainable to budget for a loss, so at least we should increase something to reduce that loss. Although we have announced these increases, we are still sitting with that loss,? said Gerber.
The City of Windhoek budgeted for a N.dollars 273 million deficit for the 2012/2013 financial year and the actual loss will only be known at the end of June, he added.
Gerber also encouraged residents to pay their water and electricity bills in order to prevent having their services being cut off.
?People will be visited, phoned, and final notices will be sent out. If they still do not pay, what must we do? We cut and then they will pay,? he indicated.
He said residents are more likely to pay their water bills if their electricity is cut. The municipality has already blocked some residents with accounts which are in arrears from buying pre-paid electricity.
?With new technology we can also block their pre-paid electricity. If you do not pay your water, we will block your pre-paid electricity and then you will have to come to the City of Windhoek,? Gerber said.
He then said he is aware that many residents are not able to afford water and electricity in the capital, but ?if you want a service you must pay for it?.
'Many people cannot afford it but we can also make arrangements for them. They should just contact our debt management division,? he noted.