Wednesday, April 17, 2024

JCTR laments the prevailing high cost of living in Zambia

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The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has lamented the prevailing high cost of living in the country. According to JCTR, the average cost of living for a family of five across the 16 towns as monitored last month (February) stood at K6, 637.20.

This reflects a K230.75 increase from the K9,047.31 recorded in February, 2023.

The most expensive town’s basket, Lusaka, stood at K9, 278.06, reflecting a K230.75 increase from the K9, 047.31 recorded in January and Kasama was the least expensive town for a family of five to live in – recording K4, 971.85.

JCTR Executive Director Fr. Alex Muyebe said the upward movement in the basket is attributed to increased prices in food items such as rice, kapenta, cassava flour and fruits.

Fr. Muyebe said the JCTR observed that during the month under review, the Energy Regulation Board pump price of petroleum products rose significantly while the local currency continued to depreciate against major currencies such as the dollar.

“Furthermore, the month of January saw an increase in mealie meal prices, which resulted in an increase in the prices of substitutes such as rice and cassava flour in the month of February. It is worth noting that the prices of other fruits, such as mango, apple, orange, and guava (price based on the cheapest fruit in a given season), increased as mangoes went out of season. JCTR remains concerned about the high cost of living. Women and girls continue to bear the brunt of the impact of rising cost of living. This becomes especially important as the JCTR prepares to join the rest of the world in commemorating International Women’s Day. JCTR recognises that women continue to play an important role in economic development. However, despite them comprising more than 50 percent of Zambia’s population, women and girls still lag behind their male counterparts in terms of economic, social and political participation,” Fr. Muyebe stated.

Fr. Muyebe bemoaned the impact of the high cost of living on women and the poverty situation in the country.

“The women continue to face high levels of poverty and several obstacles that limit their development and ability to withstand current crises such as climate change, COVID-19, public debt and, in this case, high living costs. Financial and insurance exclusion are among the most pressing challenges that women face. In Zambia for example, approximately 67.9 percent of women are financially included, in comparison to 71.2 percent of men2 . Statistics from the 2021 Labour Force Survey highlight that there are more 1 Petrol and low sulphur diesel rose by 11.15 and 10.63 percentage points respectively 2 Bank of Zambia. (2020). Finscope 2020 Survey Topline findings. employed males than females at 60.5 percent and 39.5 percent at national level, respectively,” Fr. Muyebe said.

He has since urged the Government to address the cost-of-living head on by increasing the minimum wage and increasing social protection allocations.

“Government must urgently confront the rising cost of fuel as soon as possible by expediting bilateral agreements with cheaper sources. Fuel price increases invariably have a cascading effect on the prices of other essential goods and commodities, affecting people’s lives. While contractionary fiscal policy is critical for containing inflationary pressure, the government must continue to assist (through an enabling environment) the local private sector, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, in ramping up production. Government must implement gender responsive budgeting. This is important in ensuring that fiscal policy responds to the actual needs of women and girls. This can be accomplished by tackling illicit financial flows that continue to limit the government’s ability to implement gender equity and equality programs. By ensuring this, in addition to corporations paying their fair share, more revenue can be salvaged for gender sensitive social sector spending, which is critical for protecting women from economic crises such as a high cost of living. ,” Fr. Muyebe concluded.

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