In response to the persisting cost of living crisis, the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) has released its November 2023 Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) statement, shedding light on both positive and concerning trends affecting families in Lusaka.
The latest BNNB report indicates a notable reduction in the overall cost of living for a family of five, standing at K9,060.60, a decrease of K234.16 compared to October 2023. This reduction is attributed to lower prices of key commodities, such as charcoal, kapenta, mealie meal, and bananas.
Despite the decline, the cost of food items remains high at K3,462.53, emphasizing the challenges faced by citizens in meeting their basic needs. Notably, vegetables and oranges experienced price hikes, contributing to the overall strain on household budgets.
The JCTR underscores the impact of seasonality on food prices, with mangoes becoming more abundant while oranges face scarcity and increased prices. Additionally, the stability in fuel prices during November prevented additional transportation cost escalations, despite currency depreciation.
Recognizing the government’s efforts to revise minimum wages in 2024, the JCTR acknowledges the importance of aligning wages with the cost of living. However, it emphasizes the persistent disparity, especially for domestic workers, whose wages lag below the BNNB benchmark.
In light of these challenges, the JCTR recommends a multifaceted approach to address the high cost of living.
Key recommendations include encouraging employers to utilize incentives for minimum wage adjustments, revising salaries for unionized workers facing additional taxes, and proactive measures by the government to stabilize fuel prices through structured revisions.
The JCTR calls for active engagement by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in raising awareness about minimum wage adjustments, aiming to safeguard the rights of non-unionized workers and promote fair labor practices.
In pursuit of a just Zambian society guided by faith, the JCTR remains committed to ensuring that everyone enjoys full and dignified lives despite economic challenges.