By Derrick Silimina
Government’s upward adjustment of wholesale and pump prices of petroleum products has attracted mixed reactions from across members of the public.
The Energy Regulation Board on Thursday increased the pump price for petrol by K3.54 from 17.72 to 21.16 while that of diesel has gone up by K4.56 to cost K20.15 from K15.59 per liter .
Low Sulphur Gasoline (KLSG) has gone up by K4.47 from K17.82 to K 222.29 per liter, while the price of Kerosene at K15.39 per liter.
According to ERB, the adjustments were triggered by the removal of Government subsidies and tax incentives on petroleum products.
For this reason, some people talked to feel that the country is in for a rough ride as all prices of essential commodities will follow suit and increase as a direct result, thus skyrocketing the cost of living.
“While in opposition, President HH promised citizens to use his global connections to reduce the fuel prices by K4 per litre. I don’t know why the scenario has changed today,” Anthony Kapembwa, a taxi driver, wondered.
“The sharp and painstaking increase of K4 per litre will be dire on most disadvantaged people in society, this coupled with lack of rains only points down a very long, hard and unbearable path,” a Lusaka resident, Ambrose Kangwa said.
And some political critics argue that removing subsidies at this juncture is not the right move as it will injure the less privileged.
Meanwhile, former Ambassador to Ethiopia and Permanent Representative to the African Union Emmanuel Mwamba has challenged republican President Hakainde Hichilema to apologize to Zambians for backtracking on most of his campaign promises.
Speaking when he featured on radio Phoenix Friday’s edition of “Let the People Talk” program, Mwamba charged that it is evidently clear that President Hichilema lied to Zambians that he would reduce the price of fuel and electricity once voted into office when the opposite is happening after winning the presidency.
“So we will be allowing immorality in government because when you are campaigning you’ll say what you’ll do and completely turn around 360 degrees without even apologizing to the people of Zambia; without even apologizing to the voters you told you’ll reduce the price of fuel,” the former envoy stated.
However, some people have welcomed the removal of fuel subsidies, hence the upward adjustment in fuel prices, noting that the government will use money to hire more human resources in health and education rather than to enrich the few.
“We will manage in the long run as now I won’t be paying school fees for my kids and not putting subsidies because those that benefit are few,” Patricia Mwale said.
Mwale stressed that if removal of fuel subsidies will translate to equity and equality in terms of service delivery of hospitals having enough medicines, decentralization and more funds at local level, then the move is a step in the right direction.
“As Zambians we can die a little to revamp our economy.Yes it’s fine, because we need to be employed. For instance, there will be no school fee’s beginning January next year and salaries for civil servants have been increased by 12 percent, we are game!” said Danny Tembo.
And Coster Siakavuba has highlighted that money which the government was using to pay fuel for everyone in the name of subsidies can be channeled to other issues like paying retirees, bringing back meal allowances for students in high education institutions, and paying farmers among others.
“We know this is harsh but will come out as winners if only we stand together to redeem our country from the economic crisis,” Siakavuba noted.