Saturday, 17 October 2020

PRICES OF GOODS TO COME DOWN, SAYS MTHULI NCUBE

THE cost of goods and services is set to go down again as the country is making strides in stabilising the economy following the successful implementation of the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP) which comes to an end in December.

This was said by the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, while meeting the Bulawayo business community in the city yesterday.

Prof Ncube shared the success story of the country so far as it moves into introducing a new economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy (NDS) next year saying the country now has a firm foundation to attain an upper middle-income status by the year 2030.

“Inflation has hit us hard but prices are stable and they are set to go down again soon as there is competition now in locally manufactured goods. Business can now plan for the future as prices of goods and services will be stable,” he said.

Prof Ncube said the stabilisation of the local currency has seen an increase in locally manufactured goods on the shelves.

“Locally manufactured goods have also started to penetrate the local market more than before. If you go into shops you can see that there is import substitution. Companies are beginning to make especially food products locally as against importing. We applaud that because there is job creation for the youths and shows growth of the business sector owing to the stability of the currency and we are now more competitive against imports,” he said.

Moving forward, Prof Ncube said locally manufactured goods would be exported and bring in the much-needed foreign currency to the country.

“Companies have also started selling their goods outside the country and that is growth showing that we are exporting more and that is a positive move. If this had been the other way around, we would have been exporting jobs in a way. As a Government we are noticing that the economy is going in the right direction and we have to maintain that moving forward,” he said.

He also touched on how the Government is putting social safety nets to protect vulnerable communities.

“Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, we saw it fit to try and do something for the people. We provided subsidised mealie-meal at a low price of $70 per 10kg and this was marred by corruption as some people purchased loads of that mealie-meal and sold it outside the country for high prices leading to shortages back home. Because of drought we also had shortages of maize in the country and we couldn’t import enough grain because of shortage of foreign currency to mill and produce mealie-meal at an affordable price,” he said.

Prof Ncube said following those disturbances, the Government decided to give social grants to the less fortunate to ensure they do not go hungry.

“We then saw it fit to give funds to the vulnerable and this was pegged at $300 when we started. We are trying to increase them to a higher figure so that beneficiaries can buy mealie-meal, sugar and cooking oil monthly.

We are working on that and we are still looking for more of these people who are vulnerable so that they benefit from this fund, some have registered already. We had teething problems with mobile phone operators that we were disbursing the funds through but we have rectified that already to work with them again,” added Prof Ncube.

The Minister also said the Government has also channelled money to the education system to pay for school fees under BEAM, construction of schools and also in the Intwasa/Pfumvudza programme that is also applicable to urban farmers so that they benefit from seed and fetilisers. Another chunk of surpluses, he said, was being channelled to the health sector and the civil service in general to cater for allowances in regards to Covid-19.

He lamented the shortage of boarding secondary schools in rural areas saying there is a need to construct more to enable children in those communities to have access to schools. Turning to the water issue in Bulawayo, Prof Ncube said funds were channelled to the local authority to improve on the crisis at hand.

“We have been drilling boreholes in the Nyamandlovu Aquifer to bring water to Bulawayo. As Government we give raw water to the city council and they treat it to make it usable and safe for the city. That is where the challenge is, to clean that water and pipe it, look at what happened in Luveve, people died from a water borne disease, we don’t want that to happen again and we are really trying in terms of providing this raw water.

“There is some funding that is available for the Mtshabezi Dam to repair pipes and valves and also Insiza Dam has an allocation. I am glad the production and quality water keeps increasing per day in the city, the water is very clean but now there is a lot of work that the city council needs to do in order for them to bring it to the people,” he said.

On the business side, he said the country had made strides in improving the environment for doing business locally saying President Mnangagwa was keen on courting the outside world in ensuring they invest in the country and improve relations over time to make the country a top destination for investment.

The foreign currency auction system, he said, has been a success.

“We have managed to sell a significant amount of money and we have sold just above US$300 million that we will use to aid companies locally. We have also enabled the public to determine their own exchange rate,” said Prof Ncube. Sunday News

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