18 July 2014

Tunisia: Ramadan Prices Concern Tunisians

Photo: Mohammed Nur/IRIN
Ramadan was the month when the first verses of the Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The sighting of the new moon at the end of Ramadan heralds the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, which breaks the fasting (file photo).

Tunis — Many Tunisian families are struggling to balance their budgets, since the holy month coincides this year with the summer holidays.

Consumers rush to consume during Ramadan, which drives prices up.

Before the holy month began, the Consumer Advocacy Organisation (ODC) alerted the public about the need to avoid "additional and unnecessary expenses and sticking to... the family budget".

The June 24th statement also advised consumers to avoid "purchases from parallel markets during the month of Ramadan".

According to civil society activist Tariq ben Hussein, "The government is required to play a role to prevent the exploitation of the citizens during this month, especially the weak ones among them."

Ben Hussein, who is part of a group of volunteers who monitor the market and inform authorities of the offending traders, said the government was required "to further intensify surveillance and vigilance to prevent smuggling, and crack down on those who disobey market laws".

Some citizens voiced outrage over unscrupulous merchants.

"Isn't Ramadan the month of mercy and synergies among people?" asked Siham Achour, an executive in one of the government departments. She demanded punishment for greedy traders.

Bechir Chikhaoui, an education professor, is among those struggling to deal with the dual expenses of Ramadan and the family vacation.

"Ramadan will end at the height of summer and just after Eid, I will need to prepare a budget for the summer holidays. I have to find a balance even though I am aware that I will not find it, except through more-indebtedness," he told Magharebia.

The government last month promised to assist the needy, "focus on price transparency and promote this for the benefit of common people".

Iftar tables will be set up at "nineteen locations, spread at various points of the republic", Social Affairs Minister Ahmed Youmbai said on June 24th.

"Approximately 1,000 baskets containing basic foods will be distributed to those who fast during the month of Ramadan," Youmbai said.

Tunisia would also offer financial aid "on the occasion of the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, for the benefit of users of the national programme to help needy families", the minister added.

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