Basic Commodity Prices Down, Utilities up

WHILE prices for basic goods are declining, the cost of Zimbabwe’s unreliable electricity and water supplies has been increasing, pushing up the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ)’s February monthly family basket.

Analysts said the charges were not justified considering the service was inconsistent. The charges, according to analysts, gave an impression that the authorities were charging residents high prices to pay their debts.

The consumer watchdog revealed that a three-roomed house in the high-density suburbs still rents for US$60 a month and the new water and electricity charges meant that its six-member family would need an estimated US$40 for those.

Health services were averaged out at US$5, education at US$40 and clothing and footwear at US$50.
According to CCZ’s February basket, food prices showed a market decline of 20% from US$153,63 in January to US$122,65.

The basket of food includes margarine, roller meal, white sugar, tea, fresh milk, cooking oil, bread, flour, rice, salt, onions, tomatoes and cabbages.

While inflation was said to be slowing down for the first time in one year five months. The reduction in the prices of basic commodities is expected to continue.

The last time official inflation figures showed a decline was in September 2007 when it dropped to 6 592,8% from 7 634,8% the previous month.

Announcing his first monetary policy statement in January Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono said: “Prices of goods and services are expected to continue their rapid decline trend over the remainder of the year while availability is expected to improve.”

Despite fast falling food prices last month, rises in the cost of basic necessities such as electricity and water kept the cost of living for an urban family of six at US$374,25, from US$381,23 in January.

Food makes up 32% of the total basket while transport, rent, water and electricity, health services, education, clothing and footwear make up the balance.

Countering the fall in food prices was a rise last month in the cost of transport, rents, water, electricity, health, education, clothing and footwear as all sectors were dollarised.

According to the CCZ, a family of six needed US$239, a 12% rise from January’s US$214 for the non-food items.

“The cost of a number of services is still prohibitively high and these include rent, water, and lighting and these have pushed up the cost of the basket,” said the CCZ.

“Despite basic goods now available in shops, many people could still not afford them since not all employers had switched to hard currency salaries and wages,” the CCZ said.  — Staff Writer