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Biti warns businesses against increasing prices

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Finance minister Tendai Biti last Thursday warned business against increasing prices of goods and commodities willy-nilly or risk heavy penalties.

Biti said this in the Senate after members expressed concern over the recent price hikes that were effected by most supermarkets following the re-introduction of taxes on imported selected foodstuffs like cooking oil, and the recent increase of civil servants’ salaries.

“I hope our businesspeople will not increase prices because of the policy measures we took when we assessed the market and came to the conclusion cooking oil can be manufactured locally,” said Biti.

“However, businesspeople have already increased the prices and what they want us to do is to go back and say we are lifting the policy measures and we know that our business people have long been accused of bad habits, and those are coming back again,” he said.

In 2008, during the severe economic meltdown, Zimbabwean businesses increased prices of goods willy-nilly to hedge against galloping hyper-inflation

“I am going to issue out a statement soon on the issue because last year we banned the importation of chickens and in March 2010 the chickens suddenly disappeared from the shops and when they resurfaced they cost $7 per kilogramme because of bad habits by business people,” Biti said.

He continued: “I want to appeal to our business community to be principled and not distort the market.”

Biti said the government would soon move in and take measures against those unscrupulous business people.

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