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Minister, spare us those hikes

EDITORIAL COMMENT

While ordinary Zimbabweans are bearing the brunt of the high cost of living following the recent fuel price hikes, the situation could get tougher if indications by Finance minister Mthuli Ncube are anything to go by.

This comes after the Finance minister recently said government was working on increasing the price of fuel in line with the interbank rate, which could be between ZW$9 and ZW$12 — up from the current ZW$5,26 — as well as electricity tariffs.

Though such increases may make sense in view of the loss of value of the local RTGS currency, the major question is: How are ordinary people going to be
cushioned against such “astronomical” increases, given that salaries are rarely going up? This is something that government needs to look into to ensure that
ordinary people do not get the short-end of the stick.

Zimbabweans are resilient, no doubt, hence have absorbed so much pain since President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over the reins of power and introduced his
“austerity for posterity” measures. And to heap up more pressure on the citizens would really be unfair and retrogressive.

Some families are now barely able to put food on the table, and in some cases, have been forced to make do with just one meal a day. It would be prudent for
government to come up with a win-win situation.

In January this year, a 150% fuel price increase triggered protests across the country which saw 17 people shot dead and a reported 200 injured in a brutal
State response. If that increase was so painful that it drove people onto the streets to protest because they could not bear it, we believe government has to
find ways of ensuring that citizens are cushioned to avoid yet another winter of discontent that may end up in more fatalities, particularly at a time when the
opposition and labour are mooting nationwide protests.

Whereas Ncube has promised to widen the income tax bands as he presented the national supplementary budget, it is our hope that the bands will be widened
enough to make sense rather than just as a token procedure that would really be insignificant. There may be need to explore more ways to ensure that ordinary
people’s social safety nets are intact.

Source : NewsDay

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