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Social commentators chide Chakwera’s Tonse Govt decision on hiking fuel prices

MZUZU-(MaraviPost)-Social commentators in the country have bemoaned the recent government’s decision on hiking the fuel prices, saying the best it could do was to subsidise the commodity in order to cushion Malawians in the face of the spiking Covid-19 pandemic.

One social commentator, Vincent Eliya, says Malawians always feel a deep pinch every time fuel prices go up, as the commodity is the largest determining factor of the county’s purchasing power.

Eliya further said the country is currently reeling from the Covid-19 pandemic hence hiking the prices of fuel is not a wise decision.

“Perhaps the argument could be that maybe the increase in price of the fuel in Malawi is maybe caused by an adjustment of same price on the international market, but I still think there are two things to consider when we look at this issue. Every time when the prices of fuel go up, it is the consumer who suffers. Fuel remains a very important commodity in as far as Malawi’s economy is concerned because it is one of those determinants.

“So, what I would think is that it’s high time government was supposed to subsidise the fuel. Because the moment we subsidise the fuel prices, it means very many activities in the economy will also be supported. For example, business operators will be able to travel for longer distances to get their commodities at a low cost,” suggested Eliya.

However, a Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences based economic expert, Dr. Betchani Tcheleni, expresses a contrary view, saying government has played its role in stabilising Malawi’s economy.

Dr Tcheleni said Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) could not have arrived at the decision to increase fuel prices without discussing with government on the possible repercussions.

Dr Tcheleni said: “That the economy is not in the best shape is true, but to say that it’s been a crisis may not necessarily be right. I don’t think it can be described as a crisis yet; that’s number one and number two: I don’t think we can state that it is in shambles. There are a lot of things that are still very much functional; to have the price of fuel going up alone does not necessarily mean that the whole economy is ill.

“Government has done a lot already. It’s unfortunate that Mera does not come out to explains explicitly as to what government does in controlling the price level of fuel in Malawi. You know if it was not for what government does, the price for fuel would not have been where it is now. There is the Price Stabilisation Fund which is used and it is used in many instances to make sure that prices are very stable and over and above that, government also makes sure that they are controlling the appetite of capitalists to increase the prices for their own huge profiteering. But government does control that but I wish we had our own oil wells, but we don’t and yet in Saudi Arabia where they have oil wells, and many other countries, fuel prices already went up.”

Meanwhile, Global Prices Index has revealed that Malawi has the highest fuel prices in the SADC community.

On Tuesday this week, Mera hiked the pump fuel prices of petrol, diesel, paraffin and gas with over 7 percent, arguing that the increase was due to recent trends in the world petroleum products and changes in the county’s macroeconomic fundamentals.

This is the second time the Tonse led government is adjusting upwards the fuel prices, after another increase of the commodity in December last year.

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