THE cost of living for a family of six surged by 14,2% to $355 137 last month as a result of price shocks during the holiday season that were influenced by producers and suppliers of goods responding to increases in disposable income, Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) data has shown.

In November, the figure stood at $310 910.

The rise in living expenses, which will drive more people into extreme poverty, comes as the majority of workers — particularly in the private sector — earn low earnings.

According to Japhet Moyo, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, employees in industries including printing, security and agriculture make between $95 000 and $150 000 per month.

Only the banking and revenue collecting industries, according to Moyo, are paying better salaries of around $400 000.

CCZ executive director, Rosemary Mpofu stated that the price increase was caused by price shocks during the holiday season, which were influenced by producers and suppliers of goods responding to increases in disposable income brought on by annual bonus payments as well as excess festive season disposable incomes from diaspora inflows.

She claimed that despite having the majority of essential necessities in stock, certain supermarkets continue to neglect to display the pricing of the goods and services, in contravention of section 26, subsection 5 of the Consumer Protection Act.

According to the Consumer Protection Act, consumers have a right to price and information disclosure for goods and services.

“The effect of such a practice has been attributed to some suppliers charging different prices, particularly higher than those displayed on shelves, when customers are now paying goods at cash or till points in any form of currency,” she said.

“In addition to this variation of pricing, the market has been affected by some suppliers who are demanding United States dollar payments only for some locally and imported goods, which has resulted in the increase of some basic commodities in local currency, particularly sugar and cooking oil.”

Energy tariff increases and ongoing power outages, according to Mpofu, have also impacted on the cost of production and, consequently, the cost of living since businesses are now passing on the higher expenses to consumer.

Mpofu urged customers to make prudent purchases through official channels to obtain records in the event that their rights are violated in the marketplace. Formal channels also help the country collect income through the different taxes that consumers pay.

“As consumers, we are set to benefit if Zimbabwe Revenue Authority is now collecting those taxes, the taxes come to us through service delivery in various forms. So we encourage buying from formal channels,” she said.

“Consumers should also exercise their rights to information by carefully examining if the products they are purchasing are well labelled, well packaged and well provided with vital information which includes manufacturing dates, expiring dates, ingredients used in the production of the products and also even the physical address of the manufacturer.”

Due to their low pay, teachers are preparing to strike this month to pressure the government to raise their salary. The country has also experienced a significant brain drain as qualified workers leave for other nations in pursuit of better opportunities.  — NewsDay

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