The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has disclosed that 2018 closed with the cost of living beyond reach for most households.
In a statement made available to ZANIS in Lusaka today, JCTR Social & Economic Development Programme Officer, Chanda Chileshe said among factors contributing to this situation were the rise in fuel prices and seasonal fluctuations.
He said at the end of 2018, two economic issues remained of considerable concern such as the high cost of living and the high unemployment rate.
Mr. Chileshe said the National Combined Rate of Unemployment and the Potential Labour force as compiled by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) stood at 41.2 percent.
He notes that the Cost of Living, as measured by the JCTR Basic Needs Basket, recorded a 9.4% rise over a 12 month period, opening the year at K5, 229 and closing at K5, 424.
Mr. Chileshe noted that December 2017, closed off at a figure of K4, 958 and January 2018 started at K5, 229.
He said the higher cost of living was largely due to the annual price adjustment of particular BNB items, such as electricity, housing and water done at the beginning of each year.
Mr. Chileshe further said the extension of the fish ban in the first quarter of the year raised the price of fish and kapenta on the market and this was due to a prolonged reduction in the supply of the two commodities.
He said the reduced supply of tomatoes caused by weather fluctuations in the first quarter of the year also contributed to the increased cost of living in March to K5, 575, which was the highest recorded in 2018.
Mr. Chileshe said in the second quarter of the year, BNB decreased to K5, 248 as the supply of fish, kapenta and tomatoes in the markets had increased.
He however, said the second half of the year showed some stability in the cost of living as it trended between K5, 300 and K5, 500.
Mr. Chileshe pointed out that December 2018, JCTR Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for a family of five living in Lusaka stood at K5, 424.18, which was K99.8 more than the November BNB which pegged at K5, 324.40.
Meanwhile, Mr. Chileshe noted that data from the Satellite Home Survey on incomes in Lusaka showed that majority households in high density areas earned between K500 and K2500.
He said the data further showed that the majority of households in townships such as Kanyama and Kalingalinga were in self-employment which was not adequately rewarding financially.
Mr. Chileshe has called upon the government to solve the current problem of high cost of living in Zambia by reducing the gap between salaries and cost of living.
He said as Catholic Social Teaching suggests, there is need to work towards living wages that are adequate for both workers and their families.
Mr. Chileshe said government should ensure that decent and sustainable jobs are created for the many Zambians who are languishing in unemployment.
He said the Centre proposes that this be done through creating an enabling environment in which private sector could thrive, also through building confidence in the stability of the economy and encouraging businesses to invest.
Mr. Chileshe appealed to government to fully actualize economic diversification by investing more in agriculture and fish farming.
He said this will increase supply of agriculture products and fish which will possibly influence the price of mealie meal and fish in a positive way.