The Namibian annual inflation rate accelerated to 7.0% in July, up from 6.7% in June. On a month on month basis, prices continued to rise, up 0.6% after the 0.3% uptick seen last month. On a year on year basis, half of the basket categories grew at a slower pace in July than in June, which were offset by an increase in prices of the remaining categories. The biggest contributor to inflation, both on an annual and monthly basis, was housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels.
Prices in the food and non-alcoholic beverages basket category increased 1.0% in July, after a decrease of 0.6% was recorded over the preceding month. On a year-on-year basis, inflation in this category accelerated to 12.2%, up from 11.3% when compared to June. Food and non-alcoholic beverages inflation was driven by the price increases across the majority of the sub-components, with only milk, cheese & eggs, fish and bread & cereals rising relatively less quickly. The food price increases can largely be ascribed to the drought currently experienced in Namibia and South Africa as is reflected by price increases of fruit, vegetables and grain products such as bread & cereals.
Transport, as the third largest basket category by weight, made the second largest contribution to monthly inflation. On a monthly basis transport saw an increase in prices of 1.6% compared to a 2.1% increase in June. On annual basis price increases in the transport category stood at 3.0%, a significant increase from the last year’s average of -2.1%.
The annual inflation rate for the category housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels accelerated to 8.2% in July, up 6.1% from the comparable period last year. On a monthly basis this category has seen an increase of 1.6% in July when compared to 2.1% in June. Rapid price increases have been seen in this basket category mainly as a result of increases in inflation for water supply, sewage services and refuse collection, that spiked from 11.2% year on year in June, to 17.8% in July after the City of Windhoek increased water tariffs. Price increases for rentals and other dwellings have been extremely low for a number of years, as reported by the National Statistics Agency (NSA), and the sudden spike at the beginning of the year has largely resulted in the elevated level of annual inflation we are currently seeing.
Alcoholic beverages and tobacco as the fourth largest category recorded an increase in annual inflation of 0.9% from June to 12.2% in July 2016. On a month on month basis however, prices in this category decreased slightly, down 0.3%. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco inflation has been consistently above the average inflation figure for most of the last five years when looked at on an annual basis, more consistently so than almost any other basket category.
Inflation expectations for the upcoming fiscal year are notably higher than was the case in 2015. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, major rand weakens through 2015 has driven up the cost of imports into the Common Monetary Area in rand terms; secondly, oil prices, which fell dramatically through 2014 and 2015 now appear to be stabilising, and the pass-through of base effects is likely to see an upward rebasing in inflation; third, rand weakness and other factors have driven up costs for many services in the country, including many critical utilities such as electricity and water; fourth, drought and poor harvests in the region mean that food prices are likely to increase, particularly if basic grain imports are required; and fifth, increasing interest rates are likely to see some pass-through of increased borrowing costs to consumers, and reduce consumer disposable income.
The first half of 2016 saw notably higher inflation than was the case through 2015, primarily for the aforementioned reasons, as well as a notable increase in rental inflation rates. The same inflation pickup was seen in both Namibia and South Africa, with South Africa’s inflation moving out of the target 3-6% band for the first time in over 18 months, prompting interest rate tightening from the South African Reserve Bank.
Contrary to popular belief, we are of the view that inflation will remain relatively high for the rest of the year, and into 2017. This view is primarily driven by the enormous administered price increases we have seen for services over recent months. Municipal services, water and electricity have all seen at least high-teen percentage increases in prices over the past few months. These increases will remain for the next 12 months, until the base is reset with their inclusion. These increases are likely to more than offset the improvement in transport inflation due to a stronger rand, and the expected slowing of increases in food prices due to more favourable grain prices.
Due to the aforementioned factors, we have revised our inflation expectations for 2016 up to 6.5% (6.3% in the first half of the year) from our previous expectation of 5.8%. The main reason for the major increase comes from the increase seen in administered prices, but also the large step-up in rental inflation seen since January 2016. As this is recorded once a year, the current high inflation for rental payments, at 7%, up from 1.5% in 2015, will provide buoyancy to the overall inflation number for the rest of the year.