Opinion & Columnist

Looking Back: Govt to study prices of basic commodities

The Poverty Datum Line differs as prices vary from place to place

The Rhodesia Herald,

14 February 1970

IN order to provide a sound basis of reliable information with which to determine policy, the Government intended to conduct a study of pricing arrangements covering a selected range of commodities, the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr Jack Mussett, told the Que Que Chamber of Commerce here tonight.

He said he was constantly being challenged over the present level of prices of almost all commodities.

All price queries had to be investigated, he said, but in the majority of cases allegations of profiteering proved to be unfounded.

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Mr Mussett stressed that the planned study of pricing arrangements by his Ministry in “no way reflects Government criticism of the commercial sector” over the current level of prices.

“It is intended purely as a fact-finding study, which will enable Government to play a full part in the search for reductions in price,” he said.

LESSONS FOR TODAY

It is interesting to note that pricing of basic goods were an issue in the so-called “good old days”, under the settler regime.

Pricing models are a major business component that attracts or repels capital injection in any business.

The use of multi-currency regimes has resulted in price distortions.

Fluctuations in prices over the years have hurt both consumers and businesses. Consumers have always seen businesses’ use of pricing models make super profits.

Due to reduced productivity by most companies, the country has seen an influx of “cheap” imports from neighbouring countries, and China. However, when sold on the local market in hard currency that is hard to find, the goods are expensive.

Government continues to work with major stakeholders in the manufacturing and retail sectors, through the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Consumer Council of Zimbabwe and others, to bring sanity on pricing of basic goods like mealie-meal, meat, flour, soap, cooking oil, bread, sugar, rice, toiletries, etc.

The Consumer Protection Act (Chapter 14:14) of 2019’s goal is “to protect the consumer of goods and services by ensuring a fair, efficient, sustainable and transparent marketplace for consumers and business . . .”

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The Act also spells out that a consumer “has the right to consumer education which includes, but is not limited to information on the environmental impacts of consumer choices and behaviour and the possible implications, including benefits and costs of changes in consumption.”

HERALD