By Arnold Neliba
LUSAKA, APRIL 8, 2022 (CISA)-The Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has urged the government of Zambia to develop pro-poor policies to cushion the poor and vulnerable groups against the continuously rising cost of living.
In a statement dated April 7, JCTR predicts that the cost of living is expected to soar as international fuel prices continue to rise due to the Ukraine –Russia conflict.
“Even with the Constituency Development Fund, social protection interventions, payment of various arrears and employment interventions, the rising cost of living means that these measures may not be enough to cushion households as families will face increased hurdles to meet their most basic needs,” the statement reads.
With the uncertainty that faces the trend in food prices, JCTR is concerned that the cost of living will inevitably hit hard on the majority of Zambian people, given high poverty levels pegged at over 54 percent and very low incomes. The vulnerable and marginalised groups like women, the aged, people with disabilities, children, the unemployed and the poor are likely to be greatly affected.
“They need to seriously consider the preferential option for the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised in policy formulation and implementation evident. The Government, in particular, must be in solidarity with these vulnerable groups and develop pro-poor policies, which will enable the progressive realisation and accessibility of rights like education, health care, nutrition, water, and a healthy environment.”
JCTR also urges the well-off to stand in solidarity with the poor and marginalized in their families and communities through charity.
To manage such a crisis in future, it also recommends sustained enhancement of irrigation support from the government to promote food security and avert risks due to changes in seasons and overdependence on rain for agriculture.
“We do commend the government for postponing the planned increase in electricity tariffs that was set for March 2022. We, therefore, recommend that the increase in electricity tariffs remain postponed as a cushioning measure. Zambians are already facing significant challenges given the rising cost of living. Increasing electricity tariffs now would further negatively impact the cost of living,” the statement adds.
To curb further inflation during this period, JCTR suggests a temporary suspension of import duty on edible crude oils to cushion cooking oil production and contribute to lower cooking oil prices.
The cost of living for a family of five living in Lusaka as measured by the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) in March 2022 stood at K9, 411.50. This is a K106.12 increase from K9, 305.38 recorded in February 2022.