Introducing Food, Energy Subsidies in Zambia “will not be sustainable”: Jesuit Scholars

Natasha Muhyila Phiri, JCTR Social and Economic Development Programme Officer reading the statement of the Jesuit scholars in Zambia. Credit: JCTR

Introducing subsidies on food and energy in Zambia as advised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is not going to be sustainable, Jesuit scholars in the Southern African nation have told the government. 

In a Tuesday, June 7 statement shared with ACI Africa, officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) react to the Basic Needs and Nutrition Basket (BNNB) report that outlines Zambia's cost of living for May 2022. 

JCTR officials say, “given Zambia’s current economic situation (fiscal deficit and national debt overhang) it will not be sustainable to re-introduce subsidies.”

Last month, the Head of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, told the BBC that governments need to subsidize the cost of food and energy for the poorest members of society.

The landlocked Southern Africa nation owes $27 billion, inclusive of interest arrears, to foreign and local creditors. The debt includes $16.86 billion in foreign holdings, of which $520 million is interest arrears.


Rather than introduce subsidies on food and energy, JCTR officials recommend that the Zambian government “explicitly embarks on introducing policies that would reduce the cost of food production as well as spur economic growth and create much needed jobs as unemployment has been one of the major challenges being experienced by the Zambian people.”

In the report, officials of the Lusaka-based research institution also call on those in the private sector to play a key role in economic growth and job creation drive, both of which can significantly contribute to poverty alleviation and promotion of human dignity. 

“The private sector must augment the government's efforts in exploring effective ways of reducing prices of food and energy,” JCTR officials say in the June 7 report shared with ACI Africa.

The cost of living for a family of five has declined by ZMW33.37 (US$2) from May, the Jesuit scholars say, and attribute the decrease in the cost of living to food “price movements”.

“Analysis of the price movements on the basket has shown that the principles of seasonality, demand and supply have continued to affect the movement of prices on the basket. Particularly, this is reflective in the price of kapenta; following the lifting of the fish ban, there has been increased supply of the commodity on the market hence the price reduction,” they say. 

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JCTR officials add, “A reduction in the price of citrus fruits such as oranges and apples are on account of seasonality.”

“Such reductions and even more could be registered towards enhanced access for citizens to basic essential items such as food,” JCTR officials say.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.