Mbabane: Economists say the latest fuel and electricity price increase will have a knock-on effect on the prices of food and public transport fees.
This comes after the petrol price increased by a hefty E1.00 cents per litre on Thursday midnight, while Diesel went up by 80 cents per litre and Illuminating Paraffin saw a 50 cents increase per litre.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy has attributed the significant increase to the high price of Brent crude oil. Motorists are now paying E14.15 cents per litre of petrol at the coast, a Lilangeni more than they were on Wednesday.
Due to this motorists and public transport users are bound to face major economic headaches. The knock-on effect will add to the pain with bus fares possibly going up too along with food prices. Public Transport users may also have to dig deeper in their pockets.
Sihlangu Nhlabatsi, Chairman of the National Road Transportation Council (NRTC) said it was very highly possible that the sector will introduce harsh fees increase. Nhlabatsi said the recent hike in fuel prices leaves the sector with no choice but to increase transport fees. He said, however, an informed decision will be given out next week Tuesday as they will be they will be having a meeting with all stakeholders on that day.
Economist Thembinkosi Dube said food and transport prices increase were inevitably given the recent hikes in fuel and electricity prices. Dube said this was an unfortunate and harsh situation but could not be avoided as it results from external factors. He said food is bound to increase as most of it is imported from South Africa and the transport to bring it has become costly due to the fuel prices hike.
Dube said the public transport will be more likely to have fees harshly increased as the sector was also hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as at some point it had to stop operating to the fullest due to lockdowns.
Chairman of the Eswatini Consumers Forum Mandla Ntjakala lamented on this two crucial commodities price hikes as it will have an impact on food prices. He said this was a very disastrous situation and it needs government to intervene and have concern on the public livelihood. He said this situation will go as far as contributing to the poverty rates. He said it will be no surprise to the poverty rate increasing to around 40 percent before the end of the year.
On the electricity hike, Ntjakala said it was unfortunate that the government of the day permitted the electricity hike while the COVID-19 situation was still prevailing.
He said the government should do something tangible to mitigate the situation for the sake of the consumers.
Sharing his sentiments was Bhanyaza Mdluli, the Chairman of the Eswatini Consumers Association who said government should find a way of providing assistance in a form of subsidies to meet the consumers halfway. Mdluli said the association was encouraging the consumers to take care of themselves in terms of their expenditure pattern so to avoid situations of bankruptcy.
He said it was unfortunately that the price hike of this commodities (electricity and fuel) was mostly attributed much on external forces like the increase of crude oil prices.