Sunday, 11th July 2021
The Copperbelt Trade and Development Forum (CTDF) has taken note of the misleading political statements with great concern on the comparative cost of commodities in the country and trading patterns with other countries such as; South Africa, Tanzania, Congo DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana and Angola.
While we understand that this is a political campaign season, we however wish to caution politicians particularly the Patriotic Front as an incumbent political regime to customize their campaign messages on the real economic state of affairs and how they intend to correct the situation beyond 12th August 2021 general elections and stop misleading the nation. It is an undisputed fact that currently, the cost of living and the cost of doing business in Zambia remains the highest and unbearable in the SADC region.
It is also illogical and naïve for the Patriotic Front (P.F) economic advisors and political propagandists to compare the cost of commodities between Zambia and other SADC countries while neglecting or failing to factor in the disposable household incomes, socio-economic inequalities and the dynamics of the purchasing power parity which measures the strength of various local currencies to international currencies such as the United States Dollar.
Currently Zambia has the worst performing economy in the SADC region after Zimbabwe due to poor economic policies by the P.F government which do not incentivize domestic investments and local manufacturing thereby making the country highly dependant on importation of consumable goods and services as evidenced in foreign supermarkets such as Shoprite, Pick‘n’Pay and Chinese Malls or traders. This therefore means that with or without cross-border trade barriers, imported merchandise will obviously be expensive and there is no way foreign nationals can fail to buy cheap products in their own countries and opt to buy the same products with inflated costs in Zambia.
In terms of statistics, the cost of Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) for the month of May 2021 as monitored by both the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) and the Zambia Statistics Agency (Zamstat) stood at ZMW8,442.24 while average monthly incomes for the middle or working class is just about ZMW4,500 and this is in a country where the poverty incident rate was estimated at 60% of the entire population with a gini-coefficient of 0.69 meaning that few politically exposed persons were holding on to cash at the expense of majority poor Zambians. Furthermore, the cost of basic food commodities are extremely high and beyond the reach of the majority considering the fact that only about 11.3% of the Zambian labour market is employed in the formal sector leaving 88.7% to survive informally on the streets with less than US$1.90 or ZMW42 per day, a scenario described as extreme poverty by international standards.
As earlier indicated, the critical aspect which the Patriotic Front have neglected or hesitant to tell the nation is that Zambia has the worst performing local currency in the SADC region and a poorly paid workforce, and this is why our colleagues from the neighboring countries such as the Congo DRC, Tanzania, Namibia etc…are flocking in Zambia to buy selected commodities because their purchasing power parity is stronger than Zambian citizens whose local currency has depreciated exponentially against the United States Dollar. The other motive is that Zambian workers are the lowest paid in the SADC region and therefore even if the price of mealie meal or fuel was comparatively cheaper in South Africa or any other SADC country was comparatively cheaper, citizens there would easily afford because of high household incomes.
In view of the above, may I take this opportunity to caution the P.F and their campaign machinery to desist from maliciously misinforming and misleading the nation on the current macro-economic fundamentals and poverty situation in the country. What the Zambian people want to hear is how the Patriotic Front intends to implement its Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) announced by President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and not malicious political propaganda.
Copperbelt Trade & Development Forum (CTDF)