Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) deputy secretary general Elaston Njovu says the Union is concerned with the escalating levels of the annual rate of inflation warning that the country’s poor households will be the worst affected.

Commenting on the annual rate of inflation for October, which increased to 10.7 per cent from 10.5 per cent in September, Njovu said he did not expect the inflation rate to reduce soon due to the country’s persistent economic challenges.

“Our concern is that things are likely going to be worse! Because last year, the inflation was a single-digit and this year, we hear of an increase announced by the CSO (Central Statistical Office) that the inflation rate has risen from 10.5 to 10.7 per cent. So, obviously, we don’t expect the inflation rate to come down any time because of the massive power deficit,” Njovu said in an interview in Lusaka.

“When CSO released the report, Thursday, they attributed the rise to inflation to these aspects like the rise in cost of food as a result in the cost of production. We are saying, as ZCTU, that this is negatively affecting households; it is impacting on small-to-medium enterprises, on big companies and the economy at large.”

He said the power deficit had played an integral part in the rise of inflation as most companies had been crippled by the power deficit.

“The power deficit has affected productivity in most companies. Where else would someone get power when Zesco cuts you off and the whole nation is in the dark? The nation is incapacitated in the sense that production has been affected. Our small-to-medium enterprises, all those doing business in Kanyama, Misisi welding things, barbershops, saloons, mini marts have all been affected; 12 to 15 hours of load shedding is killing business actually,” he observed.

“So, the future does not look very well; we can only hope that government must take a lead in supporting alternative sources of energy. The Chief Government Spokesperson (Dora Siliya) (was) hoping and praying that the rains will come soon. It’s fine to hope and pray, there is a God in heaven. But, surely, the same God is teaching us a lesson; it’s time that we we start to be proactive on looking at alternative sources of energy.”

Njovu said ZCTU was concerned with the manner in which government had delayed in commencing the importation of power due to Zesco’s debt owed to South Africa’s power utility, Eskom.

“We are urging the government to be proactive. But we saw how government is struggling to pay the US $40 million, which Eskom from South Africa was asking them. Then the nation learnt that, actually, Zesco owes Eskom some money, there is an outstanding balance,” said Njovu.

“So, we are really in problems as a country. Government really needs to pull up its socks to ensure that the money they are getting actually goes to economic ventures that will boost the economy in this country rather than taking projects that are not really bringing economic value to the country.