EDITORIAL COMMENT: Issue of overpricing of goods should be addressed urgently

The Chronicle

Most Zimbabweans have embraced the ongoing currency reforms but what is disturbing is the unethical conduct of most businesses that are going against the grain by wantonly increasing the prices of goods and services. Government on June 24 removed the multi- currency regime and restricted domestic transactions to local currency renamed Zimbabwe dollar. 

The removal of multi-currency is supposed to boost economic activity, eliminate speculative tendencies and bring relief to the majority of Zimbabweans who were being fleeced by businesses that were pegging prices in US dollar yet most workers are earning in local currency. 

It seems most businesses have simply converted the US$ prices to local currency hence the prices are now beyond the reach of many consumers. Businesses’ insatiable appetite for the US$ has seen them selling even locally produced products in US$.  

The Government has gone out of its way to create platforms to engage businesses before implementing major economic policies but what is coming out clear is that businesses are wolves in sheep’s clothing and should be treated like that. 

In order to expand platforms to engage businesses, President Mnangagwa has established a Presidential Advisory Council (PAC) whose members are experts drawn from business, health and social protection, agriculture, governance and human rights, faith-based organisations, tourism, education, minorities, ICT, civil society, communication and media. 

What then is the excuse for businesses to continue sabotaging the implementation of Government programmes meant to improve the people’s welfare? The same businesses that are charging extortionist prices are not increasing salaries of their own workers who are now resorting to stealing from them to survive.

President Mnangagwa said on Monday that Government will take tough measures against businesses that are overcharging. The worst affected are the rural people who can no longer afford the price of most basics. 

Local producers of some of the overpriced goods have gone to the extent of publishing recommended retail prices but these are being ignored with impunity by the unscrupulous business people. It is time PAC comes up with recommendations on how Government should tackle the issue of businesses charging exorbitant prices. 

PAC is supposed to proffer views, recommendations and solutions alive to the interests of the majority. The issue of boycotting businesses that are overcharging can only work where there is an alternative but at the moment there is no alternative because retailers are behaving the same. 

The issue of overpricing of goods and services should be addressed urgently because it is causing untold suffering of the people thereby creating a negative perception of the ongoing currency reforms.