Maputo — A breakdown in one Mozambican cement factory, rises in the international price of cement, and increased demand have all conspired to cause sharp rises in the domestic price of cement, according to the Minister of Industry and Trade, Armando Inroga.
He was speaking in the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday in response to a question from the main opposition party, Renamo, which asked why the government had not intervened to prevent a situation whereby a 50 kilo sack of cement is sold for less than 250 meticais (8.3 US dollars) in some parts of the country, but for 600 meticais in others.
Inroga replied that national cement production had reached a peak of 147,929 tonnes in August, but the following month fell by 15.3 per cent, to 125,291 tonnes, because of a breakdown in one of the six cement factories.
Imports of cement also fell, from 39.155 tonnes in August to 21,671 tonnes in September, because of increased world market prices.
Major infrastructure projects in northern and central Mozambique (such as the new bridge over the Zambezi in Tete and the international airport under construction in Nacala) had increased the demand for cement. The factories prioritised supplying the large projects with cement, said Inroga, so not much was left over for the retail market.
He said that measures are under way to eliminate the shortage of cement. 11 new cement plants are at various stages of construction in the south and centre of the country. The largest factory of all, with the capacity to produce 500,000 tonnes a year, should enter production in June 2013, and by that time the country should have a total production capacity of 740,000 tonnes a year.
Imports of cement are being stepped up, with orders for 54,000 tonnes from abroad, said the Minister. Of this amount, 5,000 tonnes is for the south of the country, 18,500 tonnes for the central provinces, and 30,500 tonnes for the north.
Inroga added that his ministry will continue to send inspectors to check on the cement factories and on the main wholesalers and retailers.
At the same question and answer session, Education Minister Augusto Jone denied a habitual opposition claim that teachers’ wages are paid late. The government pays the wages regularly and on time, he insisted. The problem is that not all Mozambican districts have banks. The wages are deposited in one of the commercial banks – but district education officials may have to drive a long distance into another, or to the provincial capital to pick up the wages for the teachers in their district.
He admitted that there are delays in paying overtime, because of mechanisms instituted to ensure that claims for overtime are genuine, and that no fraud takes place. This involves brigades from the provincial directorates of finance and of education checking how many hours teachers work in each school.
“It is in the interest of the government that this process should be speeded up so that teachers who have worked proven overtime are paid properly”, said Jone. “The inspection should not penalize honest and dedicated teachers, who are the majority”.
Renamo also demanded to know why there are not enough desks for pupils and teachers in Mozambican schools.
Jone blamed this essentially on financial constraints. He said there are 760,075 desks in primary and secondary schools, but a further million are needed, 90 per cent of them for primary schools. He put the total cost of purchasing a million desks at 5.3 billion meticais (about 177 million US dollars), which is more than 20 per cent of the annual budget for the entire education sector.
The 2013 budget, due to be discussed by the Assembly in December, includes a sum of 415 million meticais for the purchase of about 100,000 school desks.