The latest Basic Needs Basket analysis shows that the cost of living in Lusaka for a family of five shot from K4,883.57 in October to K4,924.54 in November, signalling a K4.97 increase, according to the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR).

In a statement released yesterday by spokesperson Tendai Posiana, JCTR demanded that government steps up efforts in diversifying the economy by addressing bottlenecks such as late delivery of farming inputs.

“The November 2017 JCTR Basic Needs Basket (BNB) for a family of five living in Lusaka stood at K4,924.54 which was K40.97 more than the October BNB which stood at K 4,883.57. The increase in the BNB was attributed to increased costs in some food items which included; Mealie meal, Fish, tomatoes and Kapenta increased by K3.29, K6.63, K1 and K54 respectively,” Posiana stated.

“Other commodities like beans, onion, tea and charcoal decreased by K2, K3, K18 and K16 respectively. The prices for fish and Kapenta increased generally because of low catches, due to the behaviour of fish during rainy season. It is expected that the prices will continue to be high during the next three months because of the fish ban that is effected on December 1, for a 3 month period. On the other hand onion and charcoal prices decreased because supply in the market was high which prompted the traders to reduce prices.”

The church-affiliated civil society organisation said economic diversification was key to creation of employment.

“It is JCTR’s expectation that a more diversified economy will provide more decent jobs and incomes for people to afford the ever increasing cost of living. According to the labour force survey report for 2014 the overall unemployment rate was at 7.4 per cent, urban areas had a higher unemployment rate at 11.5 per cent relative to 4.2 per cent in rural areas. Such high unemployment rates cannot guarantee improved social and economic well-being of the people as they are not able to earn enough income to provide basic needs for their families which is leading to increased poverty levels and inequality. There is need for a more diversified economy that will generate more decent jobs and especially in labour intensive sectors if the gap between cost of living and income is to be bridged,” Posiana stated.

“The JCTR therefore demands that government steps up efforts in diversifying the economy by addressing bottlenecks such as late delivery of farming inputs, high cost of financial credit and reduced investor confidence that are hindering economic diversification efforts. As presented in the 2018 budget speech, industrialisation is key to promotion of value addition and the attainment of Government’s economic diversification agenda. The current farming input distribution fiasco however negates the economic diversification plans of the 2018 budget.”

She further said over dependancy on the mining sector was unsustainable.

“Economic diversification remains key to addressing the high levels of poverty and inequality in Zambia. Over dependence on the mining sector has not entirely helped in reducing poverty because the capacity of this sector to reduce poverty is limited. Economic growth generated from a cross section of sectors is more likely to evenly distribute incomes among the population and reduce poverty and inequality than growth generated by one sector would do,” stated Posiana.

“The current challenges Government is facing in timely distribution of farming inputs is indicative that our diversification efforts into agriculture are not working well.”