Moroccans worry about Ramadan, school expenses
Anticipated increases in food prices during the month of Ramadan have Moroccans worried, particularly given the rise in the cost-of-living index since last year.
By Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 22/08/08
Food prices are already through the roof and the approach of both the new school year and Ramadan, with its high levels of consumption, is causing Moroccan households more stress than usual.
Morocco’s High Planning Commission (HCP) announced on Monday (August 18th) that the cost-of-living index in July 2008 was 5.1% higher than the same month a year ago. Food prices were particularly affected, registering a price increase of 9.1%. Non-food products saw a rise of 1.8%.
A combination of higher oil prices and a shortage of domestically-produced grain are major contributing factors to the price hikes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Morocco’s production of the soft wheat used to produce flour and bread rose considerably in 2008, but “the quantity harvested is not sufficient to meet the needs of the industrial flour mills”.
In an effort to guarantee steady supplies and price stability for grain for the month of Ramadan, the government suspended import duties on soft wheat on August 16th. The State also plans to absorb the costs of transporting imported wheat from ports to the mills, and to offer free warehousing for grain until it runs out.
Nonetheless, the greatest difficulty in coping with the rising cost of living will fall upon average and low income wage earners, many of whom look to the expenses of Ramadan with trepidation. Hamid Sefrioui, a public sector worker, told Magharebia he is having difficulty preparing for the month of Ramadan.
“The cost of living is going up much faster than pay. We feel the squeeze on our pockets. I’m thinking about taking out a loan so that I can manage to get through Ramadan, because we consume twice as much this month,” he said.
Amira Boughlala, a mother, said that while in the past she would plan to spend twice as much during Ramadan, things are different this year.
“In principle, prices go up during this period because demand is very high,” she said. “If you add the price hikes we’ve become accustomed to with the inflation we’ve seen over the past few months, it will spell ruin for poor families and those on modest incomes.”
The simultaneous start of the new school year only adds to the financial burden on Moroccan families.
Jilali Benadir, a teacher, cannot hide his anguish when considering the money he will soon have to pay out.
“I have two children in a private school,” he told Magharebia. “I must pay 4,500 dirhams for just one month’s school fees and equipment; this is more than my salary. Add to that the expense of Ramadan.”
“I don’t know what to do any more,” he said, perplexed. “I’ve really tried to save up, but it hasn’t worked.”
In related news, King Mohammed VI called on the government on Wednesday to adopt a set of measures designed to “strengthen the purchasing power of citizens, control prices and combat corruption”, MAP reported. The king stressed that a consumer protection code targeting abuse of power, extortion, corruption and tax fraud is critical at a time when food costs are up by 9.1%.