Minister claims businesses have agreed to lower prices

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By Idah Mhetu

LOCAL businesses have agreed to lower prices at a time the supply basic commodities which had disappeared from shop shelves is also improving, a cabinet minister has claimed.

Fiscal and monetary policy interventions announced by the government after the July 30 elections resulted in price hikes as well as the shortage of basic commodities across the country.

Black market rates for foreign currency also spiralled, further adding to the inflationary pressures.

Clearly concerned about the situation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa held a closed-door crisis meeting with business leaders at State House on Monday.

And addressing a post-cabinet meeting in the capital Tuesday, industry and commerce minister Mangaliso Ndlovu claimed that the situation was now improving.

“From the deliberations (with Mnangagwa) it emerged that they (businesses) had already began reviewing prices downwards,” he said.

“They are continuing to review their company structures, but they gave the president the assurance that they will continue to revise downwards their prices.”

However, information minister Monica Mutsvangwa did not appear to share her colleague’s upbeat assessment of the situation.

She said some businesses were yet to review their prices and expressed concern at the continued existence of a three-tier pricing system which is dependent on whether one is paying in US$, Bond Notes or RTGS.

The full impact of the government’s policy interventions to address the economic problems would start to be felt mid-November, the minister said.

The measures included the removal of a ban on the importation of some basic commodities which had been imposed to help local industry recover.

Meanwhile, transport minister Jorum Gumbo also revealed that government had withdrawn operating licences for some service stations.

“The reasons for closing down or withdrawing the licenses but over charging is the main reason for closing these service stations” Gumbo said.

“What happens is that the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA) regulates the prices for diesel and petrol.

“So, if you over charge then you get discipline for doing that, so they got punished because they were charging above the recommended price by ZERA.”

Other ministers who attended the cabinet briefing include Mthuli Ncube (finance), Perrence Shiri (agriculture) and Sekai Nzenza (public service).