Consumer rights groups in Malawi are calling on the government to withdraw or reduce the recent fuel price hike they say the average Malawi cannot tolerate. President Lazarus Chaquera said this week that he was concerned about the 22 percent increase, but insisted it was a result of rising global petroleum prices.
Sylvester Namieva, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives, one of the groups calling for government action on the increase, said the high price came at the wrong time.
“The hike in fuel prices comes at a time when Malawi is already struggling to make ends meet due to punitive taxes, levies and high interest rates,” he said. “As a result, this has driven up prices for basic services and amenities, for example, cooking oil, water, transportation, even airtime for mobile phones.”
Namiwa said officials could eliminate the fuel-linked levy, which pushes prices even higher.
“I am saying that Malawi has a total of eight levies on top of the tax on every liter of fuel. Now is the time that we should remove some of these levies which are unreasonable. Out of the eight levies we have a road levy. But If you don’t build a road around Malawi that is funded through this levy,” Namiwa said.
The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority said in a statement this week that the price change was in response to a global increase in fuel costs – a clarification echoed by Chakwera.
The regulatory body also cited the recent depreciation of Malawi’s currency, the Kwacha, against international currencies such as the US dollar and the British pound.
Malawi’s government spokesman, Gospel Kazako, told reporters at a news conference on Tuesday that the government was taking measures that would strengthen the value of Malawi’s currency.
“Right now we are increasing exports which will help in increasing our foreign reserves as well as help prevent depreciation of our local flows,” he said.
So far, there has been no public protest against the increase in prices.
Rights campaigner Namiwa said his organization would take action if the government failed to mitigate the impact of the increase on average Malawi. He did not elaborate.