As Uganda waits on the presidential address following the confirmation of 8 new cases of Coronavirus, the Federation of Small and Medium Enterprises Uganda has requested government not to fix prices of food and hygienic products as this may simply incentivise the emergence of a black market for those essentials.
The Executive Director of the Federation, John Walugembe told press that they were aware of some individual traders hiking prices for essential goods following the Covid 19 outbreak in Uganda, but that generally the idea of fixing prices as suggested by some members of the public would only worsen the situation.
“We would like to urge the public to avoid engaging in panic buying, as thus may lead to shortages, hence disadvantaging vulnerable groups that may need these goods the most; but also ask government not to fix prices which may lead to hoarding of goods,” he said.
Since the outbreak was announced, prices for food stuffs and sanitation products have doubled in some parts of the country. Most notably is the price of salt that has increased from Shs 600 to Shs 2000 and the price of hand sanitizers.
He further asked government to undertake a well-planned partial lock down that ensures that essential needs are met, specifically businesses that are in critical in meeting the food and health needs to citizens.
“These need to be asked to remain open. Also with the 80% of Uganda’s workforce in the informal sector, we are concerned that completely locking down the country may disrupt the livelihoods of thousands of Ugandans who can only earn through working. For these Ugandans, no work means no Money and no safety net and hence it will be difficult to enforce a total lockdown measure in the context where the informal sector and SMEs have to choose between staying home and starving or getting exposed to corona virus,” he added.
The Federation however asked government to continue with the measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus like limiting people’s movements but also introduce mass testing and rigorous tracing of individuals in hotspots in order to identify asymptomatic exposures the virus.
“We are aware that effectively curbing the spread of the virus will depend on strict adherence to social distancing and self-isolation guidelines. We therefore ask all SMEs that are still operating to follow all guidelines from the president and the Ministry of Health to the later,” he added.
The president of Uganda is expected to issue new restrictions today at 4pm in addition to locking out any new entrants in the country and banning all social gatherings.