Annual CPI inflation nudged lower to 4,1% in March from February’s reading of 4,6%. There were two key features of the CPI in March: the incorporation of fee data from educational institutions (including crèches) and the effect of the latest increases in excise tariffs.
Tuition fees are surveyed once a year in March. On average, primary and secondary school fees saw higher increases in 2020 than they did in 2019. Primary school fees increased by 7,3% in 2020 compared with 6,9% in 2019 and those for high schools increased by 7,6% compared with 6,9%.
Fees for tertiary education institutions climbed by 4,7% compared with 2019’s increase of 6,2%. The overall education index ticked up by 6,4%, a slower rate than the 6,7% recorded in 2019.
Crèche fees increased by 6,7%, higher than the 2019 rise of 6,2%. University boarding fees increased by 5,9%, lower than last year’s 10,7%.
In this year’s budget speech, the Minister of Finance announced increases in excise taxes for alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Alcoholic beverage prices, as measured in the CPI, increased on average by 1,4% in March, and tobacco products by 2,6%. These increases were lower than the 3,7% and 4,3% recorded in March 2019.
Food and non-alcoholic beverage inflation was 4,2% in March 2020. Food products based on field crops saw slower inflation, while higher rates were recorded for animal products. In the first group, bread and cereal inflation was 3,8%, the lowest annual rate since January 2019. Bread and cereal inflation has slowed for the past seven months since its peak of 8,6% in August 2019.
The annual rate for oil and fat products slowed to 4,1% from February’s 5,1%.
Meat products registered an annual increase of 5,0%, the highest rate since August 2018 (5,3%). The milk, eggs and cheese index rose to 3,7%, the highest reading since September 2018 (4,2%).
Also of interest is the monthly decline in prices for travel and tourism related products. March was the first month in which COVID-19 restrictions were put into place (before the lockdown). Car rental fees, airfares and prices for holiday packages declined by 7,3%, 4,4% and 2,4% respectively. Hotels and guest houses showed declines of 1,3 and 0,1% respectively.
For more information, download the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) release here.
Look out for the new weekly series of price data collected during the COVID-19 lockdown. The first release of Essential Products Consumer Price Index (EP-CPI) is due out on 23 April 2020.
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