The stability in prices of basic commodities in the past six months, as a direct result of the final steps in the Government’s stability programmes, will bring back the cheer to consumers this festive season as they can now plan on what to buy and when, and can even save up for larger expenditures.
Under the Second Republic, starting with tight budgeting and refusal to print any more money, continuing with effective monetary policy reforms, built on exports exceeding imports for the first time in decades, and using this underlying macro-economic stability to allow market forces to set a very stable exchange rate with speculators cut out of the system, the bugbears of hyperinflation and profiteering had finally been tamed.
Ramping up of local production, with essential imported inputs now easy for industrialists to source through the auctions, has allowed suppliers to tell retailers that their orders will be honoured, so price gouging by exploiting shortages is impossible.
Consumers and retail organisations that spoke to The Herald early this week said stability of exchange rates and the resulting very low monthly inflation rates will ensure a different festive season from what the country has experienced in the past few years.
Some consumers said the introduction of the auction system has brought stability to the prices of basic commodities and had stopped dead the decline in purchasing power of the local currency.
Mrs Omega Mupandenyama said the price stability had made planning easier ahead of the festive season.
“Since the introduction of the auction system the prices of basic commodities are stable; there are no price distortions. I have a receipt for the goods I bought last month and I compared it with the one for the goods I have just paid for, the difference is very small. This has made it easier to plan for our Christmas shopping,” said Mrs Mupandenyama.
Mrs Sekai Tizora echoed similar sentiments, saying this year’s festive season would be different from last year’s.
“The past few months have been stable in terms of price increases although one or two shops are pegging their prices on the black market rates. However, things are looking different from the situation we had last year,” Mrs Tizora said.
Mr Farai Mutuma said some rogue retailers existed, but these could be stopped.
National Consumer Rights Association spokesperson, Mr Effie Ncube ,welcomed the prevailing stability of prices.
“In terms of stability of prices and availability of commodities, the situation has improved in the past five or so months although some commodities may still be expensive.
“The situation is however, better than what we have experienced in the past two or so years during the same period,” Mr Ncube said.
He said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), however, needs to address the availability of small denomination notes for those transacting in US dollars or rand.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers Association (CZRA) president Mr Denford Mutashu said the prospects for a better festive season were high this year.
“As we speak we are already noticing an increase in spending patterns ahead of the festive season. As retailers we are well stocked with all the basic necessities and beverages and other non-essential commodities and we have been reassured by our suppliers and manufacturers of uninterrupted supply during the festive season,” he said.
Mr Mutashu said retailers were positive about the prospects for 2021 and called on industry to ramp up production to maintain the gains made this year.
Government introduced a number of measures that include the forex auction system in June, abolished mobile money agent lines and curbs on mobile money transactions that curtailed the black market and the free fall of the local currency against major currencies.
Since then prices of commodities have stabilised, allowing consumers to plan their expenditure.
Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube recently said continued price and currency stability were central to the 2021 national budget since with stability, companies could plan with people being able to save.
“With stability, citizens can postpone consumption and they can save and invest because they will know that the value of their currency is being preserved,” said Prof Ncube.
Consumer Council of Zimbabwe executive director Ms Rosemary Siyachitema yesterday told The Herald that although there was stability it was not yet at a stage where consumers could celebrate.
“The stability and reduction of prices has been there, but it is not yet at a stage where we can celebrate. The reduction is not that much, but it is better though,” Ms Siyachitema said.