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CCZ urges consumers to brace for hard times

Itai Mushekwe

THE Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has called upon consumers to take prudent and self-sustaining measures to weather the economic storm which has seen the shopping basket increasing twelve-

fold since the beginning of the year.

Consumer disposable incomes continue to be eroded by escalating prices severely affecting the low income earners.

In January, a family of six required $1,7 million per month representing a 4% increase from December 2004. The cost of the basket has continued to rise over the past 12 months.

While the CCZ puts the cost of the basket of a family of six at nearly $13 million, the average salary of a civil servant is around $2,1 million. A private soldier for instance, earns about $2,5 million while a teacher takes home about $2,1 million.

Last month the basket surged to a new high of $12,9 million, representing a 10, 7% increase from October’s grand total of $11,6 million.

The consumer watchdog warned consumers against impulse buying and to be wary of unscrupulous retailers.

“Consumers should shop around to avoid being ripped off by unscrupulous retailers, this will also help them in getting a fair deal,” said the CCZ.

The lobby group which recently came under fire for lacking legal muscle to pounce on dubious manufacturers and retailers to the best interest of the consumer’s cause, added that consumers should broaden their economic horizons to beef up their meagre incomes.

“During these difficult times,” said the CCZ, “we urge consumers to expand their economic activities by engaging in extra trade, small-scale businesses and other lawful income-generating activities to augment their wages and salaries.”

However, effective yesterday, fuel prices were hiked from the government gazetted $22 300 per litre for petrol to about $120 000 per litre on the open market, a scenario expected to exacerbate consumer woes due to the inflationary impact ignited on goods and services.

Hyper-inflation which is hovering at 411% together with plans by government to allow market forces to determine prices will further weaken the consumer’s buying power as prices are likely to soar to unprecedented levels.

The CCZ said the economy’s various stakeholders must agree on realistic prices commensurate with consumer sustainability.

“The CCZ urges relevant authorities to agree on realistic, yet sustainable prices, which will ensure consistence in the availability of commodities on the market.”

The consumer watchdog also noted that “increases in the cost of basic commodities and services reveal that the incomes of the majority of the workforce in the informal sector drastically mismatch the cost of living”.

Since the onset of the economic meltdown some five years ago, consumers have borne the brunt of the unstable macro-economic fundamentals, thereby making them submissive to market forces.

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