THE socio-economic crisis in Zambia has worsened, says the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection.
Releasing the November 2019 basket for a family of five living in Lusaka, JCTR stated that Zambia was currently facing numerous socio-economic challenges.
“These include: hunger, depreciation of the local currency, empty public coffers due to debt servicing, high cost of living, etc. These difficulties have been compounded by leadership gaps at all levels and a lack of political will to set and adhere to priorities that are of benefit to the majority of the population,” it stated.
JCTR stated that the situation continued to negatively affect lives of many ordinary Zambians.
It noted that a further increase in the cost of living during November was worrying and of great concern.
It stated that the cost of living increased by K142 to K6,481.17 in November compared to K6,338.79 in October.
JCTR stated that the upward shift in the cost of living was largely attributed to a rise in prices of some food and non-food items.
“The price of mealie meal (roller) increased from K113 per 25kg in October to K132 per 25kg in November 2019. The price of onion increased from K13 per kg in October to K17 per kg in November 2019. The price of cooking oil increased from K54 per 2.5 litres to K56 per 2.5 litres. The price of charcoal increased from K128 per 90kg bag to K150 per 90kg,” it stated.
JCTR noted that the cost of food, particularly mealie meal, still accounts for much of the rising cost of living in Zambia.
It stated that the increase was mainly attributed to the increased cost of production which had come about due to long hours of load-shedding, a situation that had forced producers to invest in alternative sources of energy, inevitably pushing up production cost.
“Further, long hours of load-shedding have created a high demand for charcoal. JCTR reckons that all these socio-economic problems are preventable given that Zambia has vast potential and several natural resources in all sectors to accord its citizens a good standard of living and a realisation of a dignified existence,” it stated.
“A little bit of political will should be enough to address non-productivity of the economy which has been prolonged by rampant load-shedding and repayment of debt. The kwacha has depreciated against major foreign currencies such as the US dollar. At the start of 2019, the exchange rate was around K11.89 to $1, and towards the end of the year has depreciated to over K15 to $1. The weakening of the local currency against major foreign currencies is likely going to further negatively affect the prices of basic food and non-foods items.”
In view of the socio- economic challenges facing the country, JCTR commended the government for embarking on power importation.
“In the long term, we urge the government to address the problem of energy deficit by seriously investing in alternative and renewable sources of energy as reliance on hydro-electricity will continue to be a challenge in the wake of climate change. We also call on the government to work with various stakeholders to put in place measures to address fiscal factors that have led to depreciation of our local currency,” stated JCTR.