Legislators sceptical of Pricing Commission

Ray Matikinye



A SPECIAL parliamentary committee has demanded guarantees that the proposed Pricing and Incomes Commission will not turn out to be another state body riddl

ed with corruption.


MPs expressed fears that members of the commission would be selected on a patronage system.


Legislators tasked to scrutinise the provisions of a Bill set for tabling in parliament during the current session expressed cynicism about the commission.


The Bill seeks to punish industrialists and retailers who flout price controls with prison terms and closure of their business.


The MPs cited the Anti-Corruption Commission that has yet to make a mark in fighting corruption since it was set up with great expectation from the public.


Zanu PF senator for Mutate-Mutasa, Mandy Chimene, expressed scepticism over the functions and competence of the Pricing and Incomes Commission to deal with daily price hikes.


“Do we have competent people to run the proposed commission and guarantees that the commissioners will not be tempted to take bribes from well-heeled business people?” Chimene asked officials from the Industry and International Trade ministry who gave oral evidence to the committee.


MDC legislator for Chitungwiza, Fidelis Mhashu, said the setting up of yet another commission to control prices and incomes indicated government’s failure to run the economy.


“What is it that this commission will achieve where other bodies before it have failed? It goes to show the government has failed to enforce the Control of Goods Act,” Mhashu said.


But the Director of Research and Consumer Affairs in the Industry and International Trade ministry, Norman Chakanetsa said the proposed legislation sought to strengthen monitoring and research into prices and incomes.


He admitted that government could not provide guarantees against possible corrupt practices saying although corruption was endemic, it was everyone’s duty to make an effort to curb it.


Reeling under an economic meltdown and runaway inflation, the government has sought to rein in prices, accusing manufacturers of unwarranted increases that have accentuated poverty among the poor.


The government has unleashed inspectors to enforce prices on basic commodities.


Manufacturers have argued that the price hikes result from fuel shortages which have forced them to source the commodity on the black market at premium prices.


Police have over the past two months arrested more than 3 000 retailers for flouting price control regulations since they launched a blitz to curb profiteering.


The populist Bill has been heavily criticised by commerce and industry bodies. Both view it as yet another impediment to their operation as government seeks to tighten tentacles on the economy.


The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce fears price controls will scare away investors. It recommended that the commission be independent from the executive for it to be effective.


It submitted that the Bill should clarify the extent to which producers would determine profit margins and the commission’s influence on goods and services supplied by parastatals. Price controls should take into account the whole production process, they argue.