By IOMMIE CHIWALO
The announcement by Ministry of Industry and Trade that Illovo Sugar Company has agreed to reduce sugar prices within the week has not shaved Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) on its demand for an inquiry on production and pricing of the sucrose.
In a media release update CDEDI Executive Director, Sylvester Namiwa says much as this is a progressive move, the decision by Illovo Sugar Company does not override the demand for an inquiry into sugar production and pricing.
“You may notice that this particular statement is tackling one aspect of industrial sugar, secondly we are not sure of the reduction margins. So the fight is still on until an ordinary citizen is able to afford the commodity just like the case in all the neighboring countries,” he said.
CDEDI has now assured the nation that it will not rest until sugar prices fall.
“If sugar is an affordable basic commodity in neighbouring countries, why should it be beyond the reach of the majority of Malawians? Malawians deserve decent living too,” he said.
On the next course of action, Namiwa has promised that his organisation will make an official position but the demand for an inquiry stands.
“Malawians and all consumers may wish to know that the Trade and Industry committee of parliament is handling our demand. In the same vein, CDEDI feel vindicated that Malawians were being skinned alive with high sugar prices,” he said.
Last week CDEDI wrote the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament and the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry to immediately conduct a public inquiry on sugar production and pricing in the country.
Through the letter, Namiwa expressed optimism that the public inquiry, will help Malawians to know whether the tax regime prevailing in the sugar industry was designed in their interest.
He said elsewhere, governments formulate laws and regulations that protect low income earners from exploitation, while on the other hand promoting
competition as opposed to shielding monopolies.
The CDEDI Chief is also demanding transparency and accountability from the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Finance and other relevant government authorities by justifying the current tax arrangement and the motivation behind the same.
He is also demanding for a complete overhaul of laws that protect selfish business interests because the fall of sugar prices will lead to an instant fall of many other basic commodities.
“Needless to remind Malawians that any piece of legislation that does not serve them is a bad law that ought to be rejected. In the same vein, we demand a complete overhaul of laws that protect selfish business interests and, thereby, punishing the same people the law is supposed to protect and serve,” he said.
Adding that the indulgence of PAC and the Parliamentary Committee on Trade and Industry on this matter is desired by Malawians, especially the poor that struggle to meet daily needs.
Learning from neighbouring countries, for instance in Zambia, a kilogramme of sugar sells at a maximum of US$0.90 (approximately MK924.60); In Mozambique it is pegged at US$ 0.46 (an equivalent of MK472.58) while in Tanzania a kilogramme of the commodity fetches US$0.45(approximately MK465.42).