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A Year To Remember For Consumers

Inflation trended at historically low levels in 2019 PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
In a year in which inflation averaged 2.9 percent, representing very little pressure on prices, consumers are headed in 2020 with generally positive indicators.

Thanks in part to the absence of fuel price increases the whole year and robust public service wage increases, 2019 was generally a smoother ride for households, who in previous years have suffered from high inflation and the erosion of disposable incomes.

Food prices were generally stable, rising by 2.6 percent in the year to October 2019, with average prices of oils and fats actually dropping while staples such as bread, milk, meat, fruits and vegetables all inching upwards only marginally despite a regional drought.

For Ogomoditse Mpitlwe, the stable prices were noticeable. “The prices made it easier to budget for groceries saving the little that I earn. In fact, many shops offered stronger discounts on specific items such as pap and cooking oil, allowing us to buy in bulk. It was a blessing, especially when you remember previous years when prices were just running out of control,” she says.

Formal employment continued to be a major challenge for many in the country, however, as the economy continued to fall short in terms of creating the required jobs.

The last available statistics indicate that between December 2017 and December 2018, just over 5,000 jobs were created in an economy in which it is estimated 20,000-plus new jobseekers enter the market each year.

All eyes are on President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s administration and the transformational agenda he has set, to create opportunities for the economy to boost its generation of jobs, while supporting the informal sector’s ability to meaningfully contribute in this regard.

Related to this, the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) sector will take heart from a new Trade Ministry survey on the competitiveness of their enterprises,

which will help government fine-tune its intervention initiatives. Launched recently, the survey identifies challenges and strengths in SME’s capabilities and business ecosystem, while also providing the clearest picture of what these firms are engaged in, their composition and focus.The highlight of the year will be the establishment of the long-awaited Competition and Consumer Tribunal in December.

The Act seeks to prohibit a wide array of misrepresentation including the use of bait advertising, force, coercion, undue influence, unfair tactics and other.

 The Act will also prohibit participation in a pyramid scheme, multiplication scheme and chain letter scheme. Under the Act, individual consumers and consumer groups will be entitled to report false advertising and other trickery to the Competition and Consumer Authority, which will have the power to enforce the penalties.  The Authority has the power to search, seize products and conduct tests where necessary to determine performance, quality and safety. Consumers have continuously been denied relevant information to enable them to make the right decisions and appropriate choices of purchases. This includes price of goods, instructions on how to use the goods, warning risks, the price displayed being different from the price charged at the till, used or reconditioned goods not indicated as such to mention a few. In our market, goods priced in other currencies, particularly the rand, also often confronted consumers.

Headed into 2020, many households will be eager to see how government will deal with the budget impact of the poor diamond revenues from 2019. It is expected that the debate around taxes and greater cost-recovery by government will continue to heat up, although no immediate decisions are expected.




Flogging a dead horse

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