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Ministry on the lookout for price inflation

by Lesotho Times
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Bereng Mpaki

TRADE and Industry minister Halebonoe Setšabi says the government will descend heavily on businesses that will inflate prices during the ongoing three-week national lockdown.

Mr Setsabi said this in an interview with the Lesotho Times this week. He said although they were yet to encounter such cases, they would not hesitate to punish the businesses.

Lesotho is currently on a three-week long lockdown until 21 April 2020 induced by the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. Although Lesotho is yet to record any cases, the government is on high alert with the country’s neighbour and biggest trading partner, Soutwh Africa having recorded close to 1 200 cases and three deaths.

Only essential services will continue running during the lockdown among them, grocery stores; health and pharmaceuticals; banks; water and energy; selected government departments; animal feeds; media; agriculture; mortuaries and petroleum services.

In the build up to the lockdown, the public scrambled to stock groceries resulting in panic buying.

Businesses became overwhelmed and there were some unconfirmed reports of some retailers inflating prices. And Mr Setšabi says they will not hesitate to punish anyone caught on the wrong side.

“We are yet to come across a known case where a trader has clearly increased their prices beyond the normal levels,” Mr Setšabi said.

“We will not hesitate to take measures on any business that will be found inflating prices.”

He appealed to the public to report any businesses they find inflating prices. He said it is not helpful for people to talk on social media without naming the businesses dealer and the prices that have been inflated.

“The public can be helpful by disclosing the names of the perpetrators and clearly show how the prices have been increased.

“We are also considering deploying ministry staff to join the police and army in carrying out inspections to weed out businesses that are inflating prices.”

Consumer Protection Association (CPA) executive director Nkareng Letsie said while they were yet to record any cases of price inflation, it was important for consumers to be vigilant and report any suspected cases.

“Deliberately inflating prices at this point would be unfair to consumers as many are facing the prospect of reduced income because they are not working. Consumers do not need another burden added to their already compromised buying power,” Mr Letsie said.

For his part, Health Minister Nkaku Kabi on Sunday said operators who would open their businesses when they are not classified as essential services would be fined M10 000.

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