Inflation grips EAC: Tanzania, Kenya prices hike

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  • Fuel price rise across EAC
  • National Assembly hears public outcry on the rising cost of living
  • Governments working on solutions to lower fuel prices

Prices of essentials are increasing rapidly across the East Africa Community (EAC) from basic home needs like food and water to fuel and transportation, inflation has hit the region hard.

According to the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the cost of food in Tanzania increased 6.60 percent in April of 2022 over the same month in the previous year.

NBS also contends that the country’s Annual Headline Inflation Rate for the month of April, 2022 increased to 3.8% from 3.6% recorded in March 2022.

According to NBS, Headline Inflation Rate measures inflation when all items in the fixed Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket are included.

“The increase of headline inflation explains that the speed of price change for commodities for the year ended April 2022 has increased compared to the speed recorded for the year ended March, 2022,” admits NBS.

Similarly, Kenyans are grappling with a hike in fuel prices in what regional experts are calling a ‘fuel crisis’. It is unclear why Kenya is suffering fuel shortage and rumours are rampant from hoarding by unscrupulous trader to politics ahead of the country’s upcoming national election.

Local media in the country purport, “…Politicians are blaming each other and giving varied reasons for the shortage, from the government being inept to government plans to increase prices in an effort to get money for campaigning to the misappropriation of funds meant to subsidize the cost of fuel.”

What they all agree on is the fact that the fuel shortage has caused a multiplier ripple across the economy sending price of all other commodities sky high. So with fingers pointing left, center and right, who is to blame for the disproportionate increase in cost of living that is causing so much suffering to millions in East Africa?

Government of Tanzania is expected to announce measures to curb fuel price hike in a bid to control increasing cost of living. Photo/HT

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“Governments must be held accountable when a woman dies because she could not get to the health facility in good time due to a lack of transport caused by fuel shortages. Farmers must hold governments accountable if they are not able to cultivate their lands in readiness for rains due to fuel shortage. This must stop and there should be repercussions when government, whose mandate is to create a conducive environment for business fails its own,” asserts Dr Tijani Salami a physician and founder of Sisters Caregivers Project Initiative which provides medical and social support for women.

In a recently published report, Dr Salami and co-publisher Jane Otai, a development worker in Kenya, the doctor said:

“African governments have a responsibility to serve the population in a more professional and better way. The population expects that the government they have elected have the capacity to provide them with all public goods including fuel without fail.”

According to the two authors, “…since the government controls and oversees fuel prices and distribution, there must be stringent measures put in place to avert any such crisis…the population should not be at the government’s mercy to survive.”

The good doctor goes further to assert that, “…everyone does their best in the farming, transport and health sectors, among others, and they should be supported by government when it comes to provision of basic commodities like fuel.”

With that said, it only makes sense that the government should protect its people from overwhelming price hikes. When the average income has remained stagnant for decades yet inflation worsens by the day, the cost of living becomes unbearable.

Tough Pumps: Tanzania Braces for Hiking Crude Prices(Opens in a new browser tab)

Government measures to curb inflation

True to these arguments, government’s like the one in Tanzania are taking measures to control if not stop the ongoing price increase, especially that of fuel.

In Tanzania, president Samia Suluhu Hassan announced government relief on petroleum products come June 1.

In a public address delivered late May, the president reassured the nation that the government is working on tax adjustments that will help lower the price of fuel.

In her public address, president Samia, who was recently in Accra Ghana where she received a recognition award for her part in spearheading regional infrastructure works including rail and roads, said her government is very much aware of the rising cost of living that has been pushed up by the rise in the price of fuel.

“The government realizes the burden of the rising prices of oil to the people and thus I have directed that the government should economize its recurrent spending to cushion the soaring prices of fuel,” the president said.

After that acknowledgement, the president reassured the nation that; “There will be a relief on the prices of oil starting June 1, this year, as the government works on tax regimes starting next financial year in July.”

As of October last year, Tanzania scrapped several levies that the government charged on fuel in a bid to control a similar price hike, but even that did not stop the Covid-19 push on prices.

It is hoped that this year, similar measures will help control the price of fuel and thus lower the price of other goods in the market. Needless to say, all of Tanzania is looking forward to the June 1st announcement of said government measures to curb oil prices and put a leash on the ongoing inflation.

Notably, the president’s selected date in early June coincides with the planned budget speech by the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Mwigulu Nchemba.

It is expected that the minister will be tabling Tanzania’s national budget for fiscal year 2022/2023 and it is at this time that the country hopes to hear a fuel price decrease announced.

Also following up on the matter is Tanzania’s Prime Minister, Premier Kassim Majaliwa who over the last few weeks has held several meetings with government ministers to discuss the hiking prices and related increase in the cost of living.

This development comes in the wake of a public outcry that shook the National Assembly in late May. Following the outcry, Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Tulia Ackson, issued the government an ultimatum within which period it was to address the fuel price surge.

Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

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