12 October 2018

Zimbabwe: Price Mayhem - Business Warns Govt Against Threats and Intimidation

The local business community has urged to resort to dialogue, warning that threats and confrontation will not work as the country spiralling prices and shortages of basic commodities as well as medicines in hospitals.

The crisis followed the imposition of a new 2 percent tax and other tough fiscal and monetary reforms by finance minister Prof Mthuli Ncube.

As businesses either hiked prices or shut up shop, the government warned that operating licences might be revoked.

"Government is warning those that have hiked prices and those who are hoarding basic commodities in order to create artificial shortages to stop this practice forthwith," said vice president Kembo Mohadi.

"Anyone pricing above regulated fuel prices is doing so illegally. Price monitors are on the ground, monitoring the situation. All those caught selling fuel at prices not approved by ZERA will have their licenses revoked," he added.

However, Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers president Denford Matashu told NewZimbabwe.com that the government should address the "real problems" faced by businesses.

"We need to find solutions by locating the real sources of the problems," he told NewZimbabwe.com Business.

"What we all need to admit is the fact that the separation of Foreign Currency Accounts from the RTGS accounts spelt the message that RTGS and bond notes are no longer worthy mediums of exchange."

Matashu said business has all along been supportive of government efforts but the prevailing economic situation is now a matter of survival as companies risked being forced to close shop.

He called for dialogue to solve the current problems.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, president, Sifelani Jabangwe expressed shock over the recent announcements and urged government to use dialogue.

"We need to come together and sit down to map the best way forward ... remember we once did this sometime in 2017 when prices had spiraled out of control and together we addressed the challenges then," he said.

Government, the CZI boss added, needs to realise that problems currently being experienced are a result of the bottlenecks typical in times of reforms.

"... . we can't risk throwing away the baby together with the dish only because of challenges that can be overcome. What we are seeing are just symptoms hence the need to get to the surface," Jabangwe added.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) past president and business leader Devine Ndhukhula also urged government cautious.

"While we acknowledge that the prevailing situation has triggered problems for both the public and the government, the whole scenario needs careful examination," she said.

"There exist some unscrupulous business people who are just acting out of speculation and profiteering but within them exist others who are hiking prices out of genuine concern hence the need for dialogue."

Economist Aeneas Chuma said the threats by government will not achieve anything, adding that the administration was not learning from past experiences.

"... government is just displaying its ignorance of market forces because what is happening currently is in line with economics dynamics.

"The market must regulate itself naturally, government cannot regulate prices," he said.

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