Uncontrolled Price Increases under Crisis Worsen Citizens’ Life

The terrible impacts of the seventeen months old crisis in Syria have affected all aspects of life in the country and worsened  the economic condition of citizens whose life has been turned into a nightmare under a state of insecurity and instability, particularly in the areas where armed terrorist groups practice their terrorist acts.

The Syrians, particularly those with law or limited income have suffered deteriorating living standards caused by unstopped and fast increase of prices of all kinds of goods and by remarkable retreat in the employment process.

In an attempt to control the unjustified price increases in the Syrian markets, the Ministries of Economy and of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection have  providedbulletins  fixing the price of each product. However, the Consumer Protection Society has doubted the effectiveness of this procedure in the light of weak control and insufficient following up of implementation, in addition to the absent cooperation between consumers and concerned bodies. This was a source of  frustration for many Syrians .

“It is absolutely unacceptable, only a year and a half ago, the prices of goods were suitable to most people, but now the incomes are not enough to cover the increase of prices, besides, sometimes we can’t find what we need,”  Najwa,  a housewife in her 30s  said, pointing out that she doesn’t work and her husband is a state employee with around 18.000 (SYP) salary which is not enough under these circumstances. 

Khaled, a craftsman, said the prices of all household stuff, vegetables and fruits are higher compared to the past few years. Prices of some necessary goods, among people’s daily needs, have increased by 100%.

“The government controlling body doesn’t work efficiently enough and the procedures taken by the  Economy Ministry can’t prevent some traders to exploit the events taking place in our country,” Khaled said, noting that some traders monopolized certain goods with the purpose of increasing their prices.   

Siham, a state employee, thought that the issue of high prices and how to ease the outcomes of this problem must be a top priority to the government.

“The purchasing ability of consumers is deteriorating due to unstable prices,” she said referring to the unavailability  of some goods in rural areas.

“ Fearing the assaults of armed groups, farmers find difficulties in  getting agricultural goods and conveying them to the markets. This makes the amount of this kind of production small and gives other sellers the opportunity to manipulate prices. ”

Shadi,  a private sector employee, said “buying certain products needs a special budget to be put in advance according to one’s income. Products such as cleaners, eggs, meat, vegetables and fruits, witnessed unacceptable increase in their prices that fruits sometimes are considered by many as luxurious goods that limited income citizens cannot afford.” Besides, he added, there is often a difference in prices from a shop to another. 

 Market prices decided by wholesalers

Abdullah, a retailer, said that liberalizing  prices is the right move to enable consumers to buy the best kind of goods at lowest prices.”

According to Abdulla,  wholesalers are responsible for price increases, “because they themselves sell us the goods at high prices, so, we, as retailers, have to lessen the revenue margin in order to keep our customers, but still prices remain unsuitable to consumers.”

He thinks that both consumers and retailers suffer the same outcomes of high prices and top beneficiaries are wholesalers.

For his part, Chairman of the Consumer Protection Society Adnan Dakhakhni,  in a recent statement to the press, referred to the society’s limited role in controlling price increases, because it has no authority on traders or consumers. Its task is to share with the ministry of economy the studying of markets and to ease citizens’ economic burdens, “ particularly people with limited income.”

“ Today, weak income of citizens makes them feel the heavy burden of prices particularly in popular areas where most limited income people live and this is the part of society which is affected mostly by price increases ,“ Dakhakhni said.

On the importance of the price bulletins being issued by the Ministry of Economy, Dakhakhni said “Generally speaking, it is an attempt to draw up price indices which logically must not be passed over.  Consumers have to be cooperative and follow up these bulletins  and be aware not to pay more than the specified prices. The price bulletins have been studied and designed not to harm traders’ interests. However, in fact, these bulletins are unfortunately no more than papers printed and distributed to traders, without following up or control mechanism that compels traders to stick to listed prices.”

Dakhakhni thinks that the ministry of economy has to enhance the controlling body by increasing the number of monitors in the markets to prevent manipulation, pointing out that only 700 monitors are working all over the country, which is not enough to control the price increases properly.”

However, Dakhakhni optimistically said “the ministries concerned with  prices control have clear and promising visions for the coming era focusing on ensuring good quality products at suitable prices to citizens.”

We will see.

 

Hamda Moustafa