February 26, 2008

Fuel price cut to end street protests / Government aims at 'Green Revolution' in agriculture

Government has agreed to cut the price of diesel fuel for private minibus taxis to end a wave of protests over high fuel prices and the rising cost of living in the southern African state.
During the protests six people were killed and more than 100 injured after police clashed with crowds of demonstrators who according to media reports looted shops, destroyed vehicles and burned electricity poles. Commuters were angered by high fuel costs and a decision, later scrapped, to raise transport fares by 50 percent. "The decision to reduce the price takes effect immediately," Transport and Communication Minister Antonio Munguambe said, after announcing the diesel price would fall to 31.0 meticais ($1.30) a litre, from 35.35. Bus companies and other transport operators had before announced steep price increases in response to rising fuel costs, but these were later scrapped. The price of petrol has climbed 46 percent and diesel by nearly 90 percent.
In the meantime, government has announced that it was panning to reduce poverty significantly by 2009 through creating more jobs and small enterprises in the agriculture sector. According to Planning and Development Minister Aiuba Quereneia 54 percent of the southern African country's 20 million population currently lived in poverty. The government aimed to cut this to 45 percent in 2009. "We are pressing for the establishments of small and medium enterprises, a 'Green Revolution' in agriculture, its marketing, and transportation," he said. "Therefore we are allocating an annual $205 million to 128 districts in order to cut poverty from the current 54 percent to 45 percent by 2009."
Quereneia said Mozambique would lay the groundwork for subsistence peasant farmers to be transformed into commercial farmers. This would need improvements in distribution of seeds and fertiliser, production diversification, good use of water, and ensuring that there are buyers for crops. "It is a broad programme which also includes the simplification of business processes in Mozambique when it comes to investments in other sectors, we have a Public Reform Programme whose key platform is to remove barriers when one wants to start a business", he said.
The International Monetary Fund has praised Mozambique for its impressive annual growth rates but said this does not filter through to ordinary people. "Despite the authorities' efforts, poverty levels are still high, and there is a need to develop policies towards employment generation and improvement of income distribution within the different regions of the country," the IMF said in a statement after a visit by a mission of IMF executive directors. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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