The government has been urged to urgently address the plight of the millions of Tanzanians who have been hit hard by biting inflation reflected in rising prices of basic foodstuffs, water and transport.
People interviewed by The Guardian on the eve of May Day yesterday, complained of spiraling prices of the basic food items against static incomes.
According to the Bank of Tanzania, rice contributes more than half of the food inflation, mainly because of the lack of reserves of the commodity and low stocks as some farmers sell the stuff abroad where it is in great demand.
“This means our ability to feed our families has been severely eroded,” said Denis George, a taxi driver operating from Sinza Kwa Remi in Dar es Salaam explaining that he now buys a kilo of maize flour at 1,300/- from around 700/- to 800/- a few months ago.
“Prices of rice and sugar have shot up to 2,600/= and 2,400/- per kilo respectively from 1,700/= a kilo of each. No food item has been spared. Poor people are being crushed by the prices,” said George, noting: “What surprises me is that the government is quiet...no bold and affirmative measures are being taken to check the situation.”
Another resident of Dar es Salaam, Abdallah Kajewa questioned the government silence on the rising prices, calling for enforcement of price controls, especially of staple foods, to cushion poor Tanzanians.
“The mechanisms used to control skyrocketing fuel prices should also be applied to control rising food prices. The minimum wage ranges between 70,000/- and 150,000/-, while daily basic requirements cost around 10,000/=. How can we, poor people survive under such circumstances?”
“The state of individual economy is very bad...the government must do something to reverse the trend,” said a food vendor, Bernard Karugila, noting that previously despite the tough economic situation, low income groups managed to afford basic foodstuffs, which is hardly the case now. “The situation has become worse for the ordinary people...low income groups are now having one meal a day,” he said.
Msokwa Muhibu, a civil servant described the current economic situation as “awkward...beyond repair” saying the government needs to institute measures to restore efficiency and effectiveness when it comes to the management of the country’s economy.
A quick survey by The Guardian at Ilala, Kinondoni and Temeke markets found 100-kilo bag of rice from Mbeya and Kyela selling at 240,000/-, up from 180,000/-.The retail price of one kilo of sugar is 2,500/- up from 1,600/-.
Onions are selling at 3,000/- per kilo, beans at 2,000/-, vegetables at 300/- per bundle up from 150/-, sardines (from Kigoma) are selling at 20,000/- per 1 kilo.
Aisha Hussein, a mother of three and resident of Mwenge said she is forced to spend 15,000/- to feed the whole family daily, a cost she could hardly sustain on her meagre earnings of 200,000/- per month after statutory deductions.
She said she preferred to buy food from vendors because prices at the main market were too high.
Peter Kalinga, a vegetable vendor defends the high price, saying she used to buy one bundle of vegetables at 150/- but she is now forced to part with 250/- and sell at 300/-, if she was to at least cover her costs.
“I am not doing well in business... customers are not coming to my stall because of the rising prices,” she said.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday in Dar es Salaam, Ubungo legislator and Chadema’s Director of Information and Publicity, John Mnyika blamed the high cost of living triggered by increased inflation, rapid depreciation the shilling, failure by the government to check misuse of public funds, corruption and embezzlement.
The youthful MP asked the government to urgently step up radical interventions to reduce unnecessary public expenditures, broaden tax collection base, and other controls to bring relief to the ordinary people.