The Central Statistical Office has released its March Consumer Price Index and Poverty Datum Line figures, both of which series show a further decline in average prices.
The tightening cash problem appears to be prompting the retailers to make more attempts to keep their prices competitive, but the more important influences on prices appear to be the removal of the cost of obtaining a licence to trade in foreign exchange and the reduced costs of importing stock now that duties have been suspended on a wider range of basics and most supermarket chains have started receiving discounts for bulk purchases.
Prices in general are approaching their equivalent levels in South African stores, but some suppliers, particularly those in the vehicle spares and servicing sector, still have some way to go.
In the CPI table, I have added a line of calculations showing the extent of the change in the first quarter of 2009. I will assemble a more comprehensive table showing the breakdown of each group into its major components. However, no figures have yet been compiled by the CSO to show the costs of education or telecommunications services. When these are incorporated, the fall in the overall average might be less pronounced, but we are all waiting to see whether Tel One has made the requested changes to its charges. Zesa's charges for electricity and the municipal charges for rates and services have come under as much criticism as those attempted by Tel One, but as these bodies are all labouring under severe handicaps, we should perhaps not become too hopeful of significant reductions.