EDITORIAL | Crippling price hikes too much, Mr Mayor

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A few months ago, we reported that an average of three companies a month have been forced to apply for liquidation in Nelson Mandela Bay since 2017.A total of 72 companies started the liquidation process between January 2017 and December 2018.Since the start of 2019, hundreds of workers in the city were laid off because companies were battling to keep their doors open.With the economy in the doldrums, having contracted 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, several companies have had to retrench staff while others have instituted measures such as placing workers on short time just to avoid shedding jobs.Our position as a city, in fact the country as a whole, is a precarious one and it is unlikely to change anytime soon.Now imagine adding to an already pressured resident – who is having to contend with fuel hikes and rising food prices – the prospect of a 7.7% rates hike, 13% for electricity and 7.5% for water, sanitation and refuse.The Mandela Bay council will debate these tariffs at a meeting today and if passed, our July bills will look a lot different.The city’s initial proposal of a 5% increase for rates had to be adjusted upward to accommodate the insourcing of private security and call centre staff.Also, it will fund a decision to give a 100% pay increase to about 600 ward committee members and 27% increase for ward councillor support staff.We have to pay for services, it’s a given, and predictably the prices increase every July. But for mayor Mongameli Bobani and finance head Mkhuseli Mtsila to say these proposals are affordable and that “at least it’s not 20%” is not only tone deaf, but it shows how completely out of touch they are with the harsh realities on the ground. Residents and businesses are struggling.Squeeze them even further and it pushes small businesses to close shop, big businesses to downscale and consumers into even more debt.One hopes the men and women elected to lead us will keep this in mind as they enter that council chamber today.

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