Consumers struggle to pay bills for basics

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MASERU — A recent survey conducted by the Bureau of Statistics has revealed that the majority of Basotho cannot pay their bills for critical services such as electricity, paraffin and water.

The Continuous Multi-Purpose Household Survey: Second Quarter Report released last week says 81 percent of the 4 628 households that were surveyed had failed to pay their bills at one point in the last three months.

“86.9 percent of households who used electricity, water, gas or paraffin had been unable to pay for such utilities at one point in the last three months, whereas only 13.1 percent were able to pay for the utilities,” said the 30-page report.

The report added that most people were struggling to settle their debts.

“Among those who had hire purchase instalments and other loans, 91 percent could not afford to pay for credit,” said the report.

The comprehensive household quarterly survey was done between August and October last year.

The failure to settle debts is the clearest indication yet that consumers are under severe pressure to meet their financial requirements.

The survey also revealed that in urban areas, the majority of households (79 percent) consumed less than 26 percent of own-produced food while in rural areas 34 percent consumed 76 to 100 percent of their own produced food.

“In contrary, most urban households (76 percent) consumed more of the purchased food, whereas rural households (41 percent) consumed less of purchased food (less than 26 percent).

“More households in both urban (98 percent) and rural (95 percent) reported that out of total consumption less proportion (less than 26 percent) was from other food sources such as food aid,” said the bureau.

“Both rural households and urban households spend most of their money on consumables, with urban households recording 78 percent and rural areas constituting 86 percent,” the report stated.

The report said the second highest expenditure was on clothing which was at four percent for urban areas and five percent for rural households.

On unemployment, the report said Leribe district had the highest number of the unemployed with the unemployment rate standing at 32.2 percent followed by Thaba-Tseka with 25.8 percent.

Qacha’s Nek district had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.9 percent.

Lesotho’s overall unemployment rate stands at 20.9 percent.

The bureau said the objective of the survey was “to provide a permanent platform for the collection of data relevant to compute socio-economic indicators”.

The results are to be used to formulate and monitor policy programmes such as poverty reduction strategies and labour market support.

The results could also be used to study consumer behavior and formulate policy interventions.

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