THE National Economic Consultative Forum (NECF), which is the government’s think-tank, has embarked on a study of pricing of basic food commodities that will pave the way for the se
tting up of an independent regulatory commission.
The commission is expected to, among other things, regulate the pricing structures.
The idea to form the NECF was first mooted during the 1995-96 budget by now Finance minister Herbert Murerwa and comprises representatives from government, labour, business and civil society.
President Robert Mugabe subsequently launched the NECF in 1997 and is current patron of the organisation.
The organisation is a voluntary coalition run by Nicholas Kitikiti, a former full-time employee in the President’s Office who serves as the executive secretary.
The price commission will have representatives from labour, business and employers. Kitikiti said they have already covered at least 13 products under the study.
“We have done a study on price stabilisation and so far we have finished with 13 products under the study. We might also be requested to do more work on pricing. We will also do a report for the establishment of a price and stabilisation commission, which will be set up soon,” Kitikiti said.
“Whatever we are doing has endorsement of government, labour and business leaders. We are also doing work for a definitive minimum wage structure, which government, labour and business have endorsed.”
The government has ordered manufacturers to reverse price increases made soon after the March 31 election to pre-March levels, a decision which has resulted in a shortage of most basic commodities which have now flooded the black market.
The last time government imposed price controls in 2002, an acute shortage of basic commodities ensued as manufacturers stopped producing the products, while others opted to export.
Government claims the shortage of commodities is an act of sabotage by business and manufacturers aligned to the MDC.
However, manufacturers argue that they cannot produce goods at sub-economic prices and survive for long.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary-general Wellington Chibebe said: “The issue of prices has been problematic but the government has been accusing us of working in cahoots with manufacturers to contribute to the shortages of basic commodities.”
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president Pattision Sithole, a fortnight ago said they would take the issue of price controls and shortages of commodities to government, but they are yet to meet Obert Mpofu, the new Industry and Trade minister.
Industry and International Trade permanent secretary, Christian Katsande, this week said a new pricing structure for all basic commodities would be announced at the end of the month.