JESUIT Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) executive director Father Alex Muyebe says the cost of living will keep going up as long as fuel pump prices continue to be adjusted upwards.

The cost of living for a family of five living in Lusaka as measured by the JCTR Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) in the month of March 2022 stood at K9, 411.50. This is a K106.12 increase from K9,305.38 recorded in February 2022.

In January, 2022 the food basket stood at K9,049.25.

And in an interview, Tuesday, Fr Muyebe said the food basket would continue to increase as long as fuel prices continue to be adjusted upwards.

“At the moment, we don’t know how far the fuel pump prices will go because as you know there are two factors that they look at as they are reviewing the fuel pump prices on a monthly basis. They look at the performance of the currency which is the Kwacha and also they look at the international fuel price, with how much a barrel is costing on the international market. The fuel price has been fluctuating and [there is] instability on the international market, the Russia-Ukraine war as one of the key factors. So we don’t know because there are some efforts to stabilize the international fuel price. I don’t know by the end of this month if those measures will materialize into results which might mean the fuel price will come down further and that may affect the monthly reviews,” he said.

“There was an intervention by the Bank of Zambia where they offloaded some dollars to stabilize the Kwacha but of course that had a mere significant impact as it were. Going up, the fuel will go up further at the end of this month but we don’t know by what margin. So we don’t know yet whether we will hit the worst as far as the adjustment is concerned. As long as the fuel continues to be adjusted upwards, it will have a spiral effect on commodity prices and therefore the cost of living will continue to go up and the price of the food basket will continue to rise.”

Fr Muyebe said the 13 percent inflation rate was still high to have an impact on commodity prices.

He projected an increase in April’s food basket.

“The inflation at 13.1 percent is still very high. It will take quite [a] long time before we can begin to see the impact of inflation on commodity prices. I think until we hit the single digit, we will not be able to see the impact on the commodity prices. In the coming few months we still continue given the fuel factors; the performance of the kwacha, also the international fuel price and then the inflation. We will continue to see the price very high and the cost of living will still remain very high for some time to come,” said Fr Muyebe.

“We will see as it goes. Again the increment is also in the margin above K4 as was the case last on the 31st of March. If the margin will be that high, I think nearing K5, then we will definitely see the commodity price continue to rise for some time. With that margin of K4 nearing K5 and the spiral effect which I talked about earlier with inflation still remaining high, I think that we can expect it will be higher. The food basket at the end of April will be higher. We expect when we do the survey, the food basket will go higher than where we stand now.”