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People’s shops? What a laugh!

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Call me a pessimist or whatever you may, but the government never ceases to amaze me each time it rolls out newer, albeit ill-thought-through measures to ease the prevailing economic crunch. As March 29th quickly approaches, it figures that the government should suddenly be so concerned about “disadvantaged, low income earners” who are failing to access basic commodities whose prices are ever escalating in shops now mostly selling imported goods.

The Minister of Industry and International trade, Mr Obert Mpofu was quoted in the Herald of 29 January, 2008 saying that the people’s shops will provide basic commodities aimed at low income earners for “it is our belief that the disadvantaged and less privileged community should access basic commodities. The shops will be useful in beating rampant price increases, shortages and monopolistic tendencies in the market.” So the government is under the illusion that everyone else who falls outside their bracket of the ‘underprivileged’ is somehow easily accessing basic goods and commodities.

From the little economics I understand, there is a shortage of basic commodities because local manufacturers are failing to produce for obvious policy and economic reasons, albeit the government would like to believe and make believe it is simple sabotage. Wouldn’t it be more practical for government to first seek to resuscitate and stimulate production that will see the locally manufactured goods come back onto the market, as well as find ways to mend the dent in foreign investor confidence? As a matter of interest, I am anxious to know where the ‘cheap’ goods that will stock up the people’s shops will come from.

Does the government honestly think the so-called pauper’s – er – people’s shops will make life any easier? You know what’s most likely to happen? More queues and more hoarding for resale (especially if the goods will be cheaper) by those with the time, ability and energy to spend a whole day in shop queues. I’ll tell you what’s more, civil servants will probably get first preference, just like what was/is happening at most bank queues. Just come in your uniform, or take out your pay slip or whatever it is they present in order to jump the queue.

Lastly, the government substantiates its new idea by conveniently mentioning the fact that the concept was taken from Angola, whose government set aside US$1,5 billion and ” has been successful in implementing the project.” People, I hate to burst your bubble but, take a look at this picture taken outside one such people’s shop then you know all is not rosy in Angola. While the long queues that have become a common sight, if not an eyesore seem to be disappearing from most banks, it seems our government really loves seeing them and cannot wait to introduce something else that will make queues re-appear.

People’s shops? What a laugh. There are some people’s shops already in this country – zhing-zhongs – which are supposed to sell the cheapest quality products but still expensive as hell. And people of all walks of life, no matter what they earn, converge there. For God’s sake, let market forces control the prices of goods. Unusually or exceptionally cheap products will only be hoarded, quickly disappearing from the shelves to reappear on the black market at inflated prices.

One comment to “People’s shops? What a laugh!”

  1. Comment by Paulo:

    Sounds like the same old story of caring for the people only happens once in 5years. Seems like some one has found his job and role again however it is short lived.

    wonderful articulation of your piece Tasha. send us your blog on the much dubbed Makoni factor!