FILE - In this Tuesday Oct. 1, 2019 file photo Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa delivers his State of the nation address at the opening session of parliament in Harare. Fuel prices and telecom tariffs in Zimbabwe have been hiked, with consumers in the economically country taking a further knock. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, file)
HARARE -  Fuel prices and telecom tariffs in Zimbabwe have been hiked, with consumers in the economically country taking a further knock and prices as well as commuter fares expected to increase further.

Zimbabweans are currently grappling with austerity measures under Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube’s economic reform program. Petroleum pricing were liberalised earlier this year as the government removed subsidies.

Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority said late last night that blended petrol will cost ZWL16.75 per liter, up from ZWL14.97 while the diesel price has also risen from ZWL15.64 to ZWL17.47.

Video by: Chelsea Lotz, Business Report TV

“For the first time since the interbank was introduced, the fuel price has been aligned with the prevailing interbank rate of the day,” said economists at Market Watch Zimbabwe on Tuesday.

According to ZERA, the interbank exchange rate for petroleum imports is currently pegged at 1:15.57. However, accessing forex on the interbank market has been problematic, according to business executives inside Zimbabwe.

Moreover, exchange rates on the parallel markets have surpassed 1:20. Telecom companies have also been battling against the exchange fluctuations and have been adjusting data prices in line with the exchange rates movements.

Econet Wireless, the biggest telco in Zimbabwe, on Tuesday advised its subscribers “to take note of our new tariffs effective 29 0ctober 2019 via text message. The new tariff adjustments have affected both voice and data calling costs on the network

According to a schedule released by the company, it now costs ZWL0.96 to call for a minute on the Econet network. Data tariffs have now been pegged at 0.19 per Megabyte.

“Whilst Econet and NetOne have adjusted pricing around similar times, at the time of writing NetOne hasn’t adjusted their pricing and their bundles are much more competitive than what is being dangled by Econet. Where ZWL20 gets you 250MB with Econet, the same amount gets NetOne subscribers 1GB of data,” commented the Techzim blog.

There have been calls for data prices to fall but the Posts and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe has defended operators in the industry – which also include state owned NetOne and Telecel as well as fixed phone operator TelOne – saying they have foreign currency denominated components on their cost structures.

Zimbabweans can now expect a further rise in inflation as retailers and commuter operators will likely pass on the costs to consumers. 

President Emerson Mnangagwa cautioned against further increases of prices of goods and commodities by retailers and other businesses.

His administration has also resisted instituting price controls. United States based economist, Steve Hanke measures Zimbabwe’s “annual inflation at 754%” although Ncube says the country’s month on month inflation is slowing down after the government discontinued publication of year on year inflation data.