Editorial: Rising food poverty cause for concern

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) has highlighted in its latest report the grave situation confronting us.

FIVE months after we went to the polls, an exercise many hoped would take us somewhere as a people, things appear to be getting from bad to worse.

Honestly, five months is a very long time and by now the country’s socio-economic situation should be indicating that everything we were promised by the powers that be is taking shape. But nay, our economy continues to tank so fast that it is increasingly becoming excruciating for everyone including government itself which appears to be struggling to adequately remunerate its workforce.

The Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat) has highlighted in its latest report the grave situation confronting us.

ZimStat said: “The food poverty line for one person in January 2024 was ZWL$155 360,39. The total consumption poverty line for one person in January 2024 was ZWL$198 981,37.”

This is a 45,6% jump from December’s figure of ZWL$106 696,52. ZimStat also said month-on-month inflation gained 1,9 percentage points to 6,6% last month from 4,7% in December last year.

What makes these figures particularly worrisome is the fact that after rebasing the inflation and other economic statistics several times over the years our economy is showing little to zero signs of the promised growth of 4,5% this year.

If truth be told, if life is getting this tough according to ZimStat figures, it should be a cause for concern for all of us, especially government, which cannot afford to sit idly as poverty continues to march on.

Zimbabwe, with so much potential to feed itself, ill affords food poverty which has been defined by some as “the inability to consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways”.

Currently we have nearly three million people in the queue for food assistance from both government and the donor community and it is extremely concerning that those who are working in both public and private sectors are increasingly   failing if not already unable to feed themselves from what they are earning. This means the food handout queues are set to lengthen.

The World Food Programme estimates that 42% of Zimbabwe’s 16 million people live in extreme poverty, while also pointing out that “in Zimbabwean cities, high inflation, rising food prices and fluctuating exchange rate have devalued asset bases, savings and micro-enterprise produce at household level”.

Surely such a situation cannot prevail even if the economy is growing by 1%. But all signs are pointing to an economy decelerating at a hair-raising speed.

Some of us end up suspecting that government is cooking up figures because we cannot have such high levels of poverty if our economy is showing minute growth. Even a 0,5% growth rate reflects on poverty levels.

ZimStat food poverty figures clearly show us that our economic growth is in the negative, hence we implore government to act as quickly as possible to create an enabling environment to help arrest the country’s overall poverty levels if it entertains any hopes of achieving upper-middle-income economy status by 2030.

Prevailing poverty levels render the upper-middle-income goal a pie in the sky.

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