THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has called on the Ministry of Finance to ensure a pro-poor budget for 2021 is implemented to address the skyrocketing cost of living in Zambia

And JCTR says the cost of living for the mouth of August, 2020, stood at K7,178.22, reflecting a marginal reduction of K26.02 from the month of July, 2020, which stood at K7,204.24.

In the latest Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB), JCTR acting programme manager for social and economic development Muchimba Siamachoka stated that there was need for government to analyse the impact of COVID -19 on the economy as it prepared for the election year to cushion the high cost of living.

“As attention shifts to the 2021 national budget, JCTR urges government to continue prioritising social protection programmes, especially Social Cash Transfer (SCT), as a way of addressing the rising cost of living in the poor and vulnerable households. The Minister of Finance (Dr Bwalya Ng’andu) recently indicated that government intends to scale-up Social Cash Transfer payments in the coming year to provide some additional support to the Social Cash Transfer component of the budget. JCTR would like to see the Social Cash Transfer benefiting many more poor households than is the case at the moment. The importance of attending to the needs of the most vulnerable people in our society cannot be overemphasized,” Siamachoka stated.

And reflecting last month’s BNNB, Siamachoka observed that the marginal reduction was caused by a slight reduction in prices of food items like roller mealie meal, fruits and groundnuts, among others.

“The JCTR BNNB for the month of August, 2020, stood at K7,178.22, reflecting a reduction of K26.02 from the month of July, 2020, that stood at K7,204.24. Reductions in the basket were noted in prices of the following food items: other fruits, such as oranges and apples moved from K283.33 to K244.33; cassava flour moved from K135.50 to K100.91 for 6Kg; roller mealie meal moved from K175.71 to K 161.00 for two 25Kg bags; pounded groundnuts 1Kg fell from K102.16 to K80.20 and beans moved from K121.52 to K104.84 for 3Kg,” Siamachoka narrated.

“Increases were, however, recorded in the prices of kapenta that rose sharply from K188.19 to K301.21 and vegetables that increased from K442.93 to K493.39 for 40Kg. From the non-food, but essential items, the price of charcoal increased from K266.67 to K272.00 for two 90Kg bags from the preceding month. Other items, specifically washing soap, vaseline and tissue recorded minimal increases of between K1 and K6.”

She added that the JCTR remained concerned with the sustained high cost of living that had averaged over K7,000 in the last seven months.

“JCTR remains concerned with the sustained high living cost that has averaged over K7,000 over the past seven months. The basket is high given that most commodities cannot be accessed by poorest and vulnerable households who have low incomes to afford basic necessities. From the August basket, particular attention is placed on the sharp increase in the price of kapenta, a nutritious food item which is a source of protein, omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids due to reduced supply. This entails that consumers will have to spend more to access this food item. This becomes a challenge at household level due to constrained income levels that have been threatened by the pandemic,” observed Siamochoka.

“Vegetables are another case in point which during the dry season tend to increase in cost due to scarcity. In spite of this, JCTR is pleased that roller mealie meal, cassava, pounded groundnuts and fruits have continued to record a price-decline. JCTR, therefore, calls on households to deliberately incorporate roller mealie meal, pounded groundnuts and vegetables in their daily diets in order to improve nutritional outcomes especially during this time of the pandemic.”