Zimbabweans seem to have made a disastrous start to 1992. First there was the reintroduction of school fees at primary level. The price of sugar nearly doubled yet the product is still as scarce as gold. Student teachers were asked to start paying school fees while at the same time they will no longer be given an allowance while on teaching practice.
Reports say that increases in the prices of bread and mealie-meal are not far off as new producer prices are effected to boost production and make farming operations viable.
The Minister of State for Finance, Economic Planning and Development, Tichaendepi Masaya, made it plainly clear that the time when prices were being kept artificially low for political survival are over.
But one wonders whether the drastic increases will not result in what the politicians dreaded all long. A casual look at the price list shows the following.
Milk went up twice within four days by 14 cents a litre in December but dairy farmers are still not content with the producer price and this means we should prepare for another hike definitely by April when producer prices are generally announced.
Electricity went up by 15.5 per cent on 1 December. It went up by 20 per cent in July.
Bus fares went up in November by nearly 48 per cent. People are now reported to be patronising trains, where they are available, and the National Railways of Zimbabwe being one of the most heavily subsidised parastatals is likely to increase its charges as at the time of writing the second class fare was cheaper than bus fare.
Bread went up by 18 per cent in October, maize meal by 35 per cent in April and with the staple now being imported at almost double what local farmers are paid it would not be surprising to see the price of mealie-meal go the Zambian way most Zimbabweans used to laugh at.
Beef went up by 25 per cent in March but with the current drought and the Cold Storage Commission likely to be flooded with cattle from the rural areas -as happened in the 1984 drought- consumers can at last expect some relief on this commodity.
Cement went up by more than 170 per cent in October.