9th August 2014
INCREASE IN THE COST OF LIVING A MAJOR CONCERN AMONG HOUSEHOLDS
According to the Central Statistical Office (CSO) publication The Monthly the annual rate of inflation as measured by the all items Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen to 8.0 percent. Accordingly, this is a matter that should attract the concern of policy makers and the general citizenry on account of the fact that the initial forecast by government was to attain year end inflation of no more than 6.5 percent by close of fiscal year 2014. Clearly this target may prove to be elusive in due course if the general performance of the economy is not consolidated.
We find this situation regressive in the light of the fact that around this period the economy should enjoy relative price stability on account of seasonal post-harvest increased supply of food items. Yet the reality is that inflation continues to surge steadily. This is particularly disturbing, in that since January 2014 the annual rate of inflation has been on a gradual and yet steady increase with no proactive actions from policy makers on how to deal with the slowly emerging situation. The annual rate of inflation as measured by the Central Statistics indicates that inflation has increased from 7.3 percent in January to 8.0 percent in July. Rising inflation undermines the purchasing power of wage earners by eroding the value of incomes.
An actual verification of the status quo using the Basic Needs Basket confirms the continued soaring of the cost of living in Zambia. The cost of living for the month of July 2014 as measured by JCTR’s Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for an average family of five living in Lusaka has increased to K3, 692.34. This shows an increase of K11.20 from June’s BNB which stood at K3, 681.14. The increase is attributed to hikes in prices of the following food items; Kapenta by K11.84 per Kg, Mealie meal for a 25 Kg bag by K1.28 and Vegetables by K1.55 per Kg. In contrast, other commodities showed marginal decreases in pricing namely, Dry fish which decreased by K12.05 per Kg and Cooking Oil which decreased by K9.74 per Kg.
Therefore, Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) appeals to government and other stakeholders to consolidate economic management and ensure that we meet the year-end inflation target of no more than 6.5%. The continued increase in inflation if not addressed in time will imply that producers will continue to transfer costs to consumers. Hence, the rise in the cost of living does not reflect well regarding the economic management of the country.
We seem to be embroiled in a vicious cycle as we have just come out of a kwacha turbulent period and hardly before the currency stabilizes we subject citizens to the challenge of rising inflation. The Basic Needs Basket exposes the plight of the poor in our society and how the average person is struggling to afford even the most basic monthly commodities.
Yet as the average person struggles to make ends meet our parliamentarians in contrast are keen to have their perks revised upwards when in effect their emoluments and incentives are already above board. It is our wish that our parliamentarians reflect on the words of Pope Francis during the Angelus that “Jesus teaches us to put the needs of the poor ahead of our own…Our needs, even if legitimate, will never be so urgent as those of the poor, who lack the necessities of life.”