High cost of living

Johann Lamont once said, “If you don’t accept there is a problem, then it is hard to debate things.”

For some time now, Zambians have been complaining about the high cost of living, the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, high unemployment levels and poverty in general. The ruling PF, on the other hand, talked of having brought unprecedented development while boasting of the value of foreign loans it had contracted.

Only recently, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection warned that failure to address the nation’s macroeconomic challenges and provision of adequate social protection would continue to push individuals with no or lower incomes further into the poverty trap. This was when it announced that Zambia had recorded the highest inflation rate since 2016, escalating the cost of living and the Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket to over K8,300.

And on Friday, Vice-President Inonge Wina Parliament acknowledged that the cost of living has gone up.

“Mr Speaker, it’s true that the cost of living has gone up and that the Government of the Republic of Zambia has put in some measures to make sure that inflation in its current form does not impact the lives of our people. And I wish to start Mr Speaker by stating that government recognises the importance of maintaining inflation within sustainable levels to make the cost of living affordable for our people. And you will notice, Mr Speaker, that since 2011 inflation is within the range of six to eight per cent,” she said. “Food prices are major components of the measurement of inflation and during the periods of 2015 and 2016 and 2017-2018 the rate was higher than targeted mainly due to increased food prices caused by low agricultural output that the country experienced on account of poor rainfall during these farming seasons.”

This is positive departure from the PF narrative!

It seems this government is finally coming to terms with reality! They can no longer mask or deny the dire situation many citizens are enduring.

It is said when the going gets expensive, most people feel the effects of cost-of-living increases in their daily lives. But rising prices hit the middle class hard, and the lower-paid harder.

This government must have seen this coming, but its leadership’s interests were elsewhere – their appetite to remain in office.

In truth the adverse economic situation began to bite over a year or so ago.

Last year, many stakeholders including the JCTR sounded alarm over the rapidly weakening economy.

JCTR was concerned that the situation was jeopardising the economic and social justice of the ordinary citizens, especially the poor, the marginalised and the vulnerable.

But the PF government did not seem to care – the leadership remained aloof! Instead, they concentrated their energies on the infamous Bill 10 until it collapsed in humiliating defeat.

We remember Dr Fred M’membe stressing then that, “Good leaders must be interested in the welfare of those in distress.”

Indeed, we should demand professional competence and moral integrity in those who are leading us or seeking to lead us. We must expect them to be concerned with the increasing gap between those who have and those who do not. We should expect them to feel the distress of many who have a big problem about the cost of goods, medicine, education, with the tragedy of unemployment, of youth, of serious lack of transport and so many other important concerns where we are all involved. All these are very difficult problems for any government to face but to solve them we need hard working and public-spirited leaders. We need people of courage who will defend the truth and demand justice for the poor, the ordinary people and others.

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