Consumer rights groups in Malawi are calling on the government to roll back or reduce a recent fuel price increase they say the average Malawian cannot afford. President Lazarus Chakwera said this week he was concerned with the 22 percent increase but stressed that it was the result of rising petroleum prices globally.
Sylvester Namiwa, executive director for the Center for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives, one of the groups demanding government action on the increase, said the higher price has come at the wrong time.
“Fuel price hike is coming at a time when Malawians are already struggling to make ends meet due to punitive taxes, levies and high interest rates,” he said. “As a result, this has pushed up the price for basic services and amenities, for example, cooking oil, water, transport, even airtime for mobile phones.”
Namiwa said officials could scrap levies attached to fuel, which drive prices even higher.
“I am saying every liter of fuel in Malawi has eight levies in total on top of tax. Now it is time that we should take away some of these levies that are unjustifiable. Out of eight levies we have a road levy. But if you go around Malawi there is no construction of a road 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 rise in fuel costs — an explanation echoed by Chakwera.
The regulatory body also cited a recent depreciation of Malawi’s currency, the kwacha, against the international currencies like the U.S. dollar and the British pound.
Gospel Kazako, Malawi’s government spokesperson, told reporters at a press conference Tuesday that the government is taking measures that will strengthen the value of Malawi’s currency.
“As of now we are increasing exports that would help beef up our foreign reserves as well as preventing our local current from depreciating,” he said.
So far, there have been no public protests against the price increase.
Rights campaigner Namiwa said his organization will take action should the government fail to ease the impact of the increase on the average Malawian. He did not elaborate.