Rising cost of living worries CUTS-Zambia

EFFORTS to tackle the rising cost of living should be a government priority at the moment, according to CUTS International Zambia. The consumer watchdog said it is concerned that the cost of living in Zambia, which has been on the rise the past months, would continue especially with the latest hike in electricity tariffs.

“In as much as there is need for cost reflective tariffs, consumers will be negatively impacted by the upward adjustment and measures to cushion them should be taken because in the last seven months, we can safely say living costs have almost doubled,” Consumer Unit and Trust Society (CUTS)-International Zambia national coordinator Simon N’gona said in an interview yesterday.

“We had the fuel subsidy that was scrapped leading to pump prices increase, then mealie-meal prices went up after a subsidy to millers was removed and in the 2014 national budget, we had several tax hikes, for instance, on airtime, money transfers. Water tariffs were also increased in Lusaka. All these negatively impacted on the consumers. But now we have this electricity tariff increment. We feel the government really needs to act to make Zambia an affordable place to live in.” The ERB has allowed Zesco to increase electricity tariffs for domestic consumers by 24.63 per cent effective next month.

The increment would also see tariffs for commercial consumers increase by 15.38 per cent, 19.49 per cent for small power and 5.11 per cent for large power while social services would pay 15.38 per cent.

N’gona said the government should urgently take various measures to help the people cope with the rising cost of living. Before electricity went up, the cost of living for an average family of five in Lusaka, as measured by the JCTR’s Basic Needs Basket, stood at K3,687.72, in March, reflecting an increase of K71.44 compared to the month earlier.

“Consumers will need some form of cushioning from this rising cost of living. It can be in form relief on taxes, for instance, on Value Added Tax,” he said. The kwacha, which has weakened most of this year on tight dollar flows, has left businesses and ordinary people worried.

A weakening kwacha means soaring operational costs for companies, retail goods going up and consumer pockets being ever more painfully pinched.

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