Libya war aggravates Ramadan price hikes
By Asmaa Elourfi for Magharebia in Benghazi – 30/08/11
The price of goods almost always rises with the onset of Ramadan. This year in Libya, budgets are strained even further by war.
"I have three children. My husband and I work and receive our salaries, but not all of our salaries," Jamila Younis, a teacher, said. "We try to make [our children] understand that they have now become grownups, and that we're at war, and therefore we shouldn't be happy on Eid while there are children who can't find anything to eat in the besieged cities, such as Misrata and Zintan."
Libyans are used to Ramadan price hikes but in the wake of February 17th revolution, the situation is more extreme than normal.
"Libyans, and here I mean most but not all of them, are accustomed to receiving their salaries without working or making any efforts," said Issa Mahmoud. "You would find that each family receiving more than two salaries, and yet you would find them complaining about shortages and never thank God."
She added that people should be rationing because of the war, not complaining about the loss of luxury. "We have to think about our brothers who are trapped in those besieged cities," she said.
The prices are only slightly higher, but salaries have dropped to dangerous levels.
"I have six brothers and sisters. I'm the oldest. My father is retired and he is the bread winner of our family," said university student Nejima Ali. "Yes, there are actually many things that we did away with in Ramadan because the salary is too little."
"I'd been hearing about the 'tourist' prices until I saw them with my own eyes," said Noura Younis. "There is a strange rise in prices: what was sold for five is now sold for 15, and what was sold for 30 is now sold for 70!"
Moussa Mohamed said that "in Ramadan, prices usually go up, but this year, the increase was even higher. On the first days of the holy month, vegetable prices went up exponentially, such as beans and parsley, a bundle of which was sold for half a dinar, but now it is sold for a dinar. These prices are very high, and I don't know why prices went as high as that."
He said that banks are often crowded or have such limited amounts of cash that they restrict withdrawal amounts. "They would tell you that you can only withdraw 150 dinars. What will such an amount do in view of the high prices that are only justified by traders' greed and their desire to increase their profits?" Mohamed wondered.
Merchants denied the accusation.
"We as store owners are trapped between the hammer and anvil, i.e. between the buyer who wants to buy for the same prices as the past, forgetting that things are now different, and the trader from who we receive our goods," Salah al-Amami, a store owner, said. "The only factor controlling this difference is the dollar rate of exchange."
"Prices are high and the goods that are currently available in markets are from last year," Moussa Mohamed said. "Add to this that the salary is 200 dinars, and you have the right to take just 100 hundred a week. We have four daughters who spend a lot of money. However, we say that we're at time of war and crisis, and that this situation will come to an end soon, God willing."
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