NIGERIANS IN UK LAMENT HIGH COST OF LIVING
Whether studying or working, Nigerians in the United Kingdom have continued to decry the worsening economic conditions in the country, describing the situation as “disturbing”.
With inflation climbing to a 40-year high and energy prices rising even higher, Nigerians living in the UK are facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis.
The UK inflation rate was 4 percent in December 2023, up from 3.9 percent in the previous month. Between September 2022 and March 2023, the UK experienced seven months of double-digit inflation, which peaked at 11.1 percent in October 2022.
Rishi Sunak, the nation’s Prime Minister says he is determined to cut taxes, keep inflation falling and get mortgage rates down to affordable levels.
Desirous to slow down an overheated economy, London has embarked on extensive monetary policy tightening that has helped to halve the inflation rate from 11 percent in 2022 to 4 percent in December 2023.
Yet, this has meant a slowdown in the rate of economic growth as businesses reduce investments and consumers cut down on spending.
A health worker who wants to be identified as Omoyemi said though there are food banks around with “street angels” selling at discounted prices, the cost of varieties of food items has increased significantly.
She stated that the major expense squeezing money out of her pocket is her rent bills.
“Honestly the cost of living in the UK has increased significantly. Initially, my 2 bedroom terraced house was £900-1000 but now I pay 1200 (about 2 million naira monthly).
“Food and groceries have increased too, though it is still affordable, but the increase is significant,” Omoyemi said.
The health practitioner who lives in Kent, England noted that the rent bill does not include power, water and council tax bills, describing the condition as “disturbing”.
Shelter, a housing charity organisation in the UK, said in August that more than three million people in England who work and rent their own homes don’t have enough savings to pay their rent for a month if they lose their job.
“The cost of living crisis is pushing renters to breaking point, and the government is sitting back while rents spiral out of control,” Shelter said.
“From reusing your old tea bags to putting on another jumper, taking shorter showers to just ‘working more hours’ – as one politician suggested, the news is full of ways to survive the worst cost of living crisis in the UK since the 1950s.”
While the cost of living has plunged many into untold hardships, others, like Opeyemi David are seeking cost-saving means.
“The rising cost of living in the UK has indeed presented challenges. Personally, I’ve been adapting by budgeting more efficiently and exploring cost-saving alternatives,” the recent graduate of the University of Sunderland said.
Residing in the Humberside area, David said the UK government has put plans in place to address the crisis.
Ibrahim Ishola who recently gained admission into the University of Portsmouth said groceries and other items have spiked, making him find other cost-effective means to survive.
“Essentials like groceries and utilities have seen notable increases. For instance, groceries have surged by approximately 15%, and utility bills have seen an average rise of 10-12%.
“These changes have prompted me to seek more affordable alternatives and closely monitor my expenditures,” the Lagos-born said.
The Bank of England in its forecasts in November last year expects inflation to continue to fall in 2024, with the UK’s consumer price index to average at 4.6 percent in Q4 2023 and 3.1 percent in Q4 2024.
Though inflation has waned in recent months, experts, including the Bank’s governor, Andrew Bailey, have cautioned that borrowing costs will need to remain high for a prolonged period to ensure it falls back to the 2 percent target set by the government.
Monetary policy tightening continues to dominate the UK economic landscape.
PwC, a consulting firm, says monetary tightening will continue to weigh on growth through 2023 and 2024.
“We have only felt around half of the impact from tightening so far. So, a return to trend growth is not expected until 2025,” PwC said in a report on the UK’s economic prospects.
A briefing report released in November by the UK’s House of Commons showed that food prices rose sharply during 2022 and 2023, as global supply chain disruptions and the effects of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine lifted the input costs of food producers.
“UK food and non-alcoholic drink prices were 10.1% higher in October 2023 compared with the previous year, based on the CPI measure of inflation.
This continued the decline from the recent peak of 19.1% in March 2023, which was the highest rate of increase in food prices since 1977.
“Over the two years from October 2021 to October 2023, food prices rose by 28.0%. It previously took over 13 years, from April 2008 to October 2021, for average food prices to rise by the same amount.“Another important driver of high inflation has been energy prices, with household energy tariffs and road fuel costs increasing in 2022. Gas prices increased to record levels after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and continued to rise during much of 2022 due to cuts in Russian supply”.