Hard-pressed Basotho tighten budgets

NEO SENOKO

MASERU – The cost of living in Lesotho continues to rise, forcing people to resort to unusual tight budgeting as many struggle to cope on a daily basis. Food prices continue to rise, electricity has gone up and so has taxi fares. This cocktail of spiraling cost in living expenses is forcing many to live on a downsized budget.

Several consumers interviewed on the streets of Maseru this week said they no longer afford to buy fruits on the street while buying a well-prepared meal has suddenly become a luxury. Local businesses are equally reeling from the current situation as they are forced to increase prices in order to keep their businesses going. Continuous increase in fuel prices has also become a nightmare in the already struggling taxi industry.

The increases has forced some motorists to park their cars at home when going to work, forcing them to use public transport or bicycles while others have resorted to walking. Maseru Region Transport Operators (MRTO) spokesperson Lebohang Moea confirmed in an interview that the industry has not seen any growth since the increase in fares in August.

Moea said taxi owners still spend more than what they gain, a situation which he attributes to the ever increasing fuel prices and other uncontrollable factors of the economy. “The situation remains the same for us, that is why we demanded much higher fares so that we can make returns but so far we are still struggling,” Moea said in an interview with Public eye on Wednesday this week.

He said many commuters no longer afford transport on a daily basis so some have resorted to walking to and from work. “The challenge is more pronounced in summer when more people resort to walking most of the times which for us in business means even more losses,” he added. Consumers are reluctant to spend the little money they have due to high prices of goods and services.

Generally people can no longer afford to buy clothes or socialise as much as they used to. “In my family we no longer use electricity for cooking purposes in an effort to cut costs, and our groceries are also limited. I am no longer able to buy clothes like I used to because now I have to budget for transport and other things throughout the month until the next pay day,” said Moeketsi Seemahale, a Maseru resident in an interview with Public Eye.

Conditions are tougher for street vendors who have to make a living out of the little they get in their businesses. “At the moment there is absolutely no money for us people on the street because you can see that everybody, including our customers, is struggling to make ends meet.

“Sometimes I still manage to make profits but not as much as I used to do; I even had to change my way of doing business in that now I have started arriving very early at work unlike in the past when I came around normal working hours. I do this so that I can collect as much as I can in the early hours of the day,” said Ts’episo Ntseki who specialises in vending fruits.

Another vendor Lehlohonolo Pakisi who sells food around Mafafa area told Public Eye that the problem comes when they have to increase prices in order to also keep their businesses going. “Some customers do not understand why prices keeps on increasing and decide to stop buying which affects our business negatively,” Pakisi added.

Some of them told Public Eye they have not realized normal profits for the past few months because they are forced to spend the little that they make in a day on food and transport. All these conditions are driven by tough economic conditions, particularly in South Africa, as well the rising oil prices on the global stage.

The ongoing discussion about the Brexit agreement with the European Union and the rising trade tensions between the United States and China have also been identified as a major risk to the global economy, according to the Central Bank of Lesotho’s Monetary Policy Statement released this week.

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