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Aug 12, 2010

Food Prices Increase During Ramadan

As usual, every year before the fasting period during the month of Ramadan in the Arab world in general and Egypt in particular, the mass media focuses on the increase in food prices. This trend began in Egypt when the government lifted its control of the business sector as part of the free economic policy. (al-infitaah al-iqtisaadi).

This led to increasing greed on the part of the business sector, causing them to take advantage of consumer needs, especially during the month of Ramadan. This situation led some organized political groups such as Free Society, 6th of April, the Keefayah group and a collection of young people who advocate development and justice, to protest the increase in food prices in front of the prime minister's office. Furthermore, the new rector of al-Azhar, Dr. A. alTyib, increased the assistance to the poor by 100% to reach 40 million Egyptian pounds. He also encouraged the able citizens to increase their zakat (charity) to help the poor. (www.almasry-alyoum, 8/5/2010).

The government, under the direction of the ministry of social welfare, supported the opening of a supermarket in Nasser City - with 260 food companies displaying their food products at 15% discount during the month of Ramadan to help consumers. (www.ahram.org, 8/5/2010).

Another socio-psychological factor began to influence consumers. This is the idea that fasting during the month of Ramadan is a period of festivities, which is reflected in the amount of money spent on purchasing food. This increasing demand by consumers led the business sectors greed to take advantage of the public by increasing their prices to expand the margin of their profits.

It seems to me that the public began to ignore the religious meaning behind fasting, which is, among other things, to remind the believers of the feeling of hunger and to be generous to the poverty-stricken people.

Keep in mind that nearly 41% of the Egyptian public is living below the poverty index level, which is $2 per person per day according to the U.N. The most effective policy to curtail the greed of the business sector that is supported by the government is to organize a campaign to boycott certain products and food items that they can do without. For example, meat is an expensive item and is not consumed on a daily basis by the majority of the public because of its high cost. Boycotting meat will teach the meat importers a hard lesson and the public can do without it, at least for a period of time. After all, more than one billion people in India are vegetarian and are doing well without meat. The idea behind such thoughts is to create an awareness among the public and send a message to the business sector to restrain their greed.

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