LIVINGSTONE — The cost of living in tourist resort town of Livingstone, Zambia has increased to K5,745 as at October 2021 up by over K300 from January this year.
Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) social and economic expert Chama Bowa-Mundia also says Zambia is dependent on imported inputs which impacts the agricultural sector once the exchange rate goes up.
Presenting the JCTR’s Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket for Livingstone, Mundia said some sampled households indicated that they had reduced the number of meals from three to two daily.
“In Zambia’s tourist capital of Livingstone, JCTR trends analysis for January to October 2021 indicate an increase in the cost of living particularly, the cost of food moved from K2,876 in January to K3,065 in October.
“The cost of non-food but essential items also increased from K2,531 in January to K2,675 in October. The total cost of living in Livingstone therefore stood at K5,407 in January 2021 and closed at K5,745 in October 2021. This represents an over K300 increase in the cost of living,” Mundia said.
She said the overall the cost of living in the tourist capital went up on account of three issues; seasonality, COVID-19 and an unstable exchange rate.
Mundia however, noted that mealie meal had seen the most notable price reduction moving from K218 in January to K169 for two 25kg bags in October.
She said that notable price increases were seen on chickens which increased from K147 to K280 for five kilograms, 14kg of other fruits moved from K147 in January to K397 in October.
The price of 3.6 litres of cooking oil increased from K129 to K158, while 40 kgs of vegetables increased from K296 to K329 at the close of October 2021.
Mundia said just like in other towns the prices of non-food but essential items like charcoal continued on an upward trajectory moving from K180 to K298 for two 90 kg bags.
“JCTR wishes to highlight that the year 2021 has continued to be challenging as prices of essential food and non-food items remain beyond the reach of many Zambians. This is at the backdrop of key macroeconomic challenges on account of high debt levels, slow growth and compromised livelihoods on account of COVID-19,” she said.
Mundia said Livingstone faces significant challenges given the impact of COVID-19 on tourism following the first, second and third waves recorded between June 2020 and June 2021 due to restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the pandemic.
She added that inequality continues to widen with incomes of professionals pegged at over K8,000.
“Our monitoring data indicates that a number of people were in 2021 unable to afford the price of mealie meal whose price ranged between K90 and K120 for a 25 kg bag. Some sampled households further indicated that they had reduced the number of meals from three to twice daily,” Mundia said.
JCTR recommends that the government must sustain stabilisation of the macroeconomic indicators.
“Macroeconomic indicators such as inflation and the exchange rate greatly influenced the cost landscape of various goods in 2021. Stabilisation of these key indicators is therefore a key intervention in ensuring affordability of nutritious foods especially for the poor and vulnerable,” Mundia said.
“Government must prioritise Zambia’s debt overhang which has compromised the nation’s development outcomes.
“Spending on health, education, social protection and water and sanitation must be safeguarded in order to improve the living conditions of the over 50 percent of the Zambian population living in poverty.”
She noted that the people of Livingstone desire to see the government prioritise creation of decent jobs so that workers get an income that will allow them afford basic needs of life.
“This should be anchored on actualisation of government’s commitment to reduce the cost of doing business. Provision of support and incentives to local businesses to enable them expand.
“For example, local businesses are calling on the local authority to explore the possibility of establishing a public abattoir to aid in bringing down the cost of animal slaughtering and subsequently the price of beef,” Mundia said.
“Exploration of the possibility to reopen Livingstone Motor Assemblies as a job creation avenue.”
She also added that the government needs to explore the possibility of setting up fruit processing plants to promote local food consumption, reduce wastage and also create additional employment.
JCTR reminded the government that the people of Livingstone desire to see the UPND administration deliver on its campaign promises.
“There is need to think more local…even with the challenges of COVID-19 there are challenges with the impending fuel increases. There is need to do more research on COVID-19 and mobilise local resources,” said Mundia.