JCTR projects uptick in cost of basic needs basket

Kapenta being sold at an open market in Siavonga district. Residents have complained about the price increase in the commodity which is signaling scarcity.

The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection – JCTR says the September 2018 JCTR Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for a family of five living in Lusaka which stood at K5,356.36 was K46 less than the August BNB which stood at K5, 402.31.

Significant changes in prices were noted in Kapenta which decreased by K42 from K229.75 in August to K188 in September per kg. Charcoal decreased by K25 from K165 in August to K140 in September per 90 kg bag. Dry bream fish increased by K8 from K124 in August to K132 in September per kg.

Even with the noted reduction, the cost of living has remained high and below incomes of many Zambians who continue to struggle to access basic needs of life. JCTR has noted that prices of basic commodities are sticky downwards and this has contributed to the high cost of living.

Amid the high cost of living, the Energy Regulation Board (ERB) on 2nd October, 2018 announced an upward adjustment in fuel prices by K2.31 per litre of petrol, K2.61 per litre of diesel and K2.49 per litre of kerosene, due to changes in the fundamentals that determine fuel prices.

JCTR says oil is one of the key drivers of industrial and commercial activities within the country. The importation of oil dominates many other expenditures and forms a major part of Zambia’s import bill.

With regards to increased economic activities in the country, national consumption of oil has increased. It is for this reason that JCTR expects adjusted fuel rates to negatively impact the prices of essential goods and services such as food, water, sanitation, electricity, health care and housing.

According to ERB, the fundamentals that have adversely affected fuel prices are increased price of crude oil on the international market and the depreciation of the Kwacha against major trading currencies, especially the US dollar.

JCTR expects local producers to increase commodity prices as they try to cushion themselves against increased cost of production instigated by increased fuel prices and in the process the consumer will pay the brunt of fuel hike.

JCTR is therefore urging government to locally accelerate the process of exploration and production of oil as this will increase supply of oil and henceforth reduce fuel prices. Reduced fuel rates would cushion Zambia from the high cost of living due to the fact that fuel is a major determinant. Further on, we urge government to enhance transparency when procuring petroleum feedstock in accordance with the provisions of the Zambia Public Procurement Authority.