Pricing distortions should be dealt with urgently

Rudo Saungweme

Since January this year consumers have been at the receiving end of traders and service providers who are pegging their prices on the United States dollar (USD) to the RTGS dollar exchange rate citing the spiralling rate. Suppliers and retailers are doing injustice to the consumers by taking advantage of the multi-currency system to cream them off.

The Confederation of Zimbabwe Retailers (CZI) President, Denford Mutashu bemoaned the price distortions saying that they were a result of pricing of commodities in USD to the majority of customers whose remuneration is largely denominated in RTGS dollars.

“Pricing distortions arise from a situation where a supplier charges goods and services in USD when our sector is selling predominantly to the majority of customers who earn incomes in RTGS dollars,” said Mutashu.

The pricing of commodities in United States Dollars has caused untold suffering to the people of Zimbabwe. Some property owners have even gone on to charge rentals in USD. One does not even know where this is coming from because the majority of Zimbabweans are being paid in RTGS dollars. Some of the goods and services which being charged in USD are manufactured locally and are not even imported. One then wonders why payment of such commodities needs to be done in foreign currency.

Many thanks to President Emmerson Mnangagwa for making it clear that the use of the multi-currency system will soon be a thing of the past. In my view, this move will be the panacea to the ongoing price distortions that have hit hard on the vulnerable ordinary citizen. The move will usher in parity and stabilisation..

“A currency is only printed by its owners and the only way to get it is through exports,diaspora remittances or foreign investments but as a country we should have our own currency and we have started that journey,” said the President.

Foreign currency should only be accessible to those who own it in their own countries local people and companies who earn it through exporting goods and services. The ongoing charging of goods and services by some traders and service providers seems to be a disguised quest for bringing back dollarisation. This will become a disadvantage to both the country and individuals who would have to look for the scarce currency in a country where exports and production are still low.

Having a local currency will ease this challenge. It will enable Government to ease cash shortages by availing more notes and coins which are proportional to the country’s gold reserves.

President Mnangagwa stated that the surge in prices of basic commodities was being caused by the absence of local currency.

“This (anomalous pricing) is happening because we do not have our own currency.The time will come soon when it will no longer be permissible to transact using the USD or the (British currency, the) Pound. You will be required to use our local currency.You will be informed about that currency and that will be the currency you will be using,” he said.

Converting between currencies has a cost for individuals and firms. When the country has its own currency all the costs will be a thing of the past.

Prices in different currencies can be difficult to compare. This presents a night mare for consumers. It means that one has to move around the Central Business District comparing prices. If everything is priced in the same currency, price comparison would be a straightforward affair. This would help the consumers to cut costs as they would be able to find the cheapest products more easily.

When prices continue to be charged in foreign currency, price distortions will persist. The introduction of Zimbabwe’s own currency would be a relief to all Zimbabweans who were being robbed their hard earned cash by unscrupulous traders.

Some members of the opposition have been supporting the price distortions in the hope that they would be taken advantage of by the people to protest against the unfair practice among other economic challenges. The price distortion scourge, however, affects even members of the opposition as well. Most Zimbabweans are now aware of the opposition’s known trick.

Speaking during a post-Cabinet briefing last week, the Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa stated that the Cabinet was working around the clock to ensure that prices are stabilised.

“Of great concern to Cabinet is the fact that the price increases are apparently being fuelled by the parallel market rate. Government is, nonetheless, working around the clock to address the issue of price hikes in order to alleviate the suffering of its citizens,” said the Minister.