When the Going Gets Tough

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Petronella Sibeene

With the imminent fuel price increases come Monday, consumers can brace themselves for the inevitable – all-round price hikes.

I guess everyone is already sensing an inevitable wave of price hikes on daily consumables just because those goods which we purchase daily for our basic needs have to be transported to the shop. Not forgetting that the factory, which manufactured these products, also runs machinery on fuel. No doubt an increase in fuel price will lead to a higher cost of living. Retailers always tend to pass on the cost to consumers – question of affordability never comes up or does it?

My economics lessons taught me that it is always difficult to climb down a social ladder – one would rather stay at the same level no matter how tight the budget and happily climb up when fortune smiles. But given the present scenario one wonders how many can afford even the basic luxuries to “keep up appearances”. The shopping and shebeen budgets are cut drastically because after drawing a list of all the necessities in the house, the balance sheet is left at zero.

Sadly, consumers are spending more for the same quantity of goods as before the fuel hike.

It will actually not surprise most of us if hypertension tops the list of diagnosed diseases at most health centres this year because already there is just too much pressure as to where that extra cent will come from.

My chief scribe says whatever is happening is best for Namibians (and I hope I live long enough to prove him right). The increase in everything will actually force us to lead a healthy lifestyle, no cars, meaning we will be walking, no Russian sausages and chips (especially the one from the Portuguese minimart next to Game) – an apple a day will do (Bank Windhoek that’s for you). Don’t bother craving for a Coke, just send Mathew down to get you nice ice-cold water from the water dispenser in a Coke can and reminisce of the good old days before Erkki Nghimtina was appointed Minster of Mines and Energy.

Already, people today shop only when there is a sale. And as usual, shop owners are playing the psychological game such that SALE tags are no longer the month-end treats but every day is sale day. For food shops, it’s always towards month-end, when they try to snatch customers for themselves by cutting off a certain percentage but even then the ordinary men on the street can still not afford.

My colleague, John Ekongo, last week related his visit to a cash loan company – yes, times are hard for all regardless of background and are getting harder.

Loan sharks will surely smile all the way to the bank – don’t they say one man’s downfall is another one’s success.

Most people today survive on credit. I actually learnt that those who owe shops during month-end usually do not answer calls that are not registered in their phones. It’s a cat and mouse game as shop owners struggle to get their dues.

Again this could be a lesson in disguise. It used to be ‘each man for himself and God for us all’, now I hear people are learning to live in a community. Neighbours are forming lift clubs to transport children to and from school or taking turns to do so. We are now a family brought together by the same cause – economic hardships!

Colleagues are also forming “taxi clubs” where money is put together for fuel and only one colleague’s car is used to transport the others. (Ever heard of walking club?) Again, we are even closer as family – times are hard!

This is definitely a hard time and if I had a beef with you I sincerely apologise (try again) because we definitely need each other to survive. Guys please stand by me for didn’t the Pretenders sing, “I’ll stand by you”?

Definitely, we have to Zula to survive.

Eewa.

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