The Centre for Social Concern (Cfsc) has said the recent tariff hikes by public utility service providers, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and the three Water boards add ‘insult’ to the current economic injury in the country.
Recently, Blantyre Water Board increased the price of water by 10 percent. Lilongwe and Mzuzu Water Boards also increased the price by 45 and 35 percent respectively.
And in the August Basic Needs Basket statement released on Tuesday, Cfsc described water price increments by Lilongwe and Mzuzu Water Boards as inconsiderate.
It said the increments were also difficult to justify before poor Malawians who already have huge bills to settle for other basic needs such as food and education, while their salaries remain low.
“A more pro poor price hike strategy could have been adopted considering that times are hard and the service which the boards offer is not up to standards as Kalondolondo programme has identified several inefficiencies such as inconsistent bill calculations, lack of clear complaint handling mechanisms and unreliable water supply,” read the statement in part.
Cfsc then suggested that the percentage hike should have been done in phases, spread across a reasonable period and customers should have been warned in advance.
On the general cost of living in August, Cfsc said the continued cost rise of maize and continuing depreciation of the kwacha left many households panicking.
For instance, it said in the urban areas, from the 2.7 percent rise in monthly cost of living in July, the cost went by a further 1.8 percent in the month of August, from K136,118 (US$ 242) to K139, 384 ((US$ 248.1) as compared to a decline of nine (9) percent during the same period of 2014.
Cfsc said a salary survey it conducted in 2014 showed that an average worker received K44,000 ($77) per month, but noted that despite increments, this figure has not significantly gone up.
“With this kind of salary in mind, an average household in Lilongwe is already unable to meet the basic food basket which was at K71, 277 [$125] as of August, 2015.
“As if this is not enough, the household would have to cough an extra K2, 438 [$4] to the K5, 417 [$10] paid in July for the same volume of water, thereby compromising further on its nutritional needs for a good productive health. This could have been made worse if MERA had not blocked the proposed increase by Escom,” it stated.
Meanwhile, Cfsc has urged Malawians to adopt more efficient water management techniques at household level so that consumed volumes are as minimal as possible.
It suggested re–using the water where possible, checking water leaks in taps, turning off taps when not in use and notifying the Water Board of leakages as some of the remedies.
On average, the statement indicates that a household in Lilongwe is required to spend K139,384 (US$ 242) , Zomba K133,102 (US$ 239), Blantyre K144,929 (US$ 258), Mzuzu K116,159 (US$ 207), Karonga K116,933 (US$ 208), and Mangochi K122,108 (US$ 217), to meet basic needs.