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Zimbabwe govt puts price control on basic commodities

The Zimbabwe government Tuesday introduced price control on a range of basic commodities, amid sharp price escalations fuelled by galloping inflation of more than 4,500 percent.

But the move was unlikely to be adhered to by manufacturers and retailers, who are also fighting hard to stay afloat in Zimbabwe’s unstable economic environment.

Industry and Trade Minister Obert Mpofu, issuing the price control, accused businesses of massive profiteering, and of unilaterally abandoning a mutual agreement between the government, labour unions and manufacturers to freeze prices.

The agreement was signed two months ago as a collective effort to combat inflation, which soared to 4,530 percent last month.

Mpofu accused businesses of ulterior political motives, ahead of next year’s general elections, in increasing prices of basic commodities.

“Government is aware that these escalating price increases are a political ploy engineered by our detractors to effect an illegal regime change against the ruling party ZANU-PF, and the government… As a government, we cannot stand idly while this situation continues,” he said.

He prescribed prices for a range of basic commodities, including bread and the staple maize meal, and said government task forces had been set up to enforce the new prices.

“The Task Force on Price Monitoring and Stabilisation recently constituted by the government is going to immediately take appropriate action against unscrupulous and insensitive economic players,” said Mpofu.

But observers said the threats were likely to deter business, and could result in targeted goods being withdrawn from formal markets and re- channelled to the black market instead.

As part of efforts to give struggling workers a relief, the government also widened the tax-free income band Monday.

But the measures are too little to have a significant impact on Zimbabweans, 80 percent of whom have sunk into poverty.

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