ZimbabweÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s National Incomes and Pricing Commission (NIPC) has removed price controls on newspapers, writes Gugu Ziyaphapha.
The NIPC, a board appointed by government to police rocketing prices in Zimbabwe, slapped the newspaper industry with price controls last July.
Both public and private newspaper executives have been pleading with government to scrap the controls, arguing the industry faced collapse if they were not allowed to increase cover charges in line with the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s inflation rate, which is the highest in the world at above 9 million percent.
Announcing the deregulation of newspaper prices, Esau Ndlovu, NIPCÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s acting CEO, said: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe newspaper industry is urged to exercise responsibility and ensure that newspapers are available at affordable prices that give viability to your operations.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
On imposing the price regulations, government argued the move was necessary as newspapers were an essential commodity.
Managers of independent newspapers were arrested last year for charging prices not gazetted by government.
Currently the cover charge of the state-controlled daily, The Herald, is Z$8 billion (R2.60c). The state-owned Sunday Mail and privately owned financial weekly, Financial Gazette, are selling at Z$10 billion (R3.30c).
Newspaper prices are now expected to shoot up.
With a collapsing economy that has destroyed most of the advertising base, the local newspaper industry has had to contend with escalating prices of newsprint and inks which are imported from South Africa.
Mutare Board and Paper Mills, the countryÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s sole newsprint manufacturer, is failing to meet the local demand because of the shortage of foreign currency which the company needs to buy raw materials and spare parts for machines.
South African-based papers such as the Sunday Times, The Star and Mail & Guardian were not affected by the price control, since the government classifies foreign publications as luxury products. But they have now been hit with customs duties.