Inflation 'caused by global factors'
Manama, January 4, 2008
Inflation is a global problem and Bahrain is doing its best to combat it, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro said.
Local businessmen are victims alongside consumers, Dr Fakhro said at an extraordinary parliament meeting called specifically to discuss inflation.
MPs blamed rising prices for increasing crime and violation in Bahrain, with desperate people stooping even to stealing from mosques, or pulling their children out of school to help earn money.
Dr Fakhro said his ministry and the prices control committee, which he chairs, were monitoring the local market as tightly as possible.
He said investigations showed prices were not being pushed up by local businesses but by global forces - though inspectors were out each day to ensure there is no cheating on prices.
However, there are just 25 inspectors to deal with tens of thousands of businesses and they cannot cope, said Dr Fakhro.
Dr Fakhro, who was summoned to the session, urged people to alert the ministry if they think traders are cheating by wrongly putting up prices - under the guise of inflation.
"We are looking for people's support, considering that the market is huge and their co-operation is needed, if we want to maintain prices and ensure that inflation is not being misused," he said.
Dr Fakhro said the prices control committee was trying its best to control prices and ensure they were reasonable.
"The committee carries out continuous studies on prices and there are new recommendations, which would be announced soon," he said.
Dr Fakhro said a number of MPs were against commercial exhibitions, while others back them.
"When we allow them to open, we get heat, because some merchants say they get affected, and when we don't people say the market is expensive and what's being sold at exhibitions is more cheaper," he said.
"This why we have come up with an agreement to not have these exhibitions on special occasions, such as Eids, to ensure merchants are not affected."
MPs were yesterday discussing a report on an urgent proposal submitted to parliament on January 23 last year by 19 MPs, asking the government to look into solutions to the inflation problem and results of the study prepared by the price control committee.
"When people are full, they do not go on the street rioting, but when their stomachs are empty, no one can do anything to stop them," said Al Wefaq MP Jalal Fairooz.
"Are what people living in today called houses? Nine people live under a dilapidated roof, with the breadwinner just earning BD200, what does anyone expect them to do, throw roses at officials, or get angry," he asked.
Fairooz said reports by inflation index houses listed Manama as the fifth most expensive city in the Arab world last year, with it expected to become the third this year.
"The rate of inflation rose to 19 per cent last year and experts say that salaries should rise by 33pc to stay ahead - something we hope the government would consider, if it doesn't want the people to get more angry," he said.
Al Wefaq MP Mohammed Al Mizal warned that soaring costs of living were pushing people into crime.
Al Mizal said well-known economist Bahraini Jaffar Sabt presented parliament with a study on the price rises for different products in the market from 2004 until last year, which were shocking.
"Electrical cables have risen by 442pc, copper pipes by 265pc, milk and salt by 100pc and onions by 300pc, yet the government is just standing and watching, while people suffer," he said.
Al Wefaq MP Dr Jassim Hussain said the government had huge surpluses and budget reserves in the last few years, yet it was not being used to help the people.
"We are speaking about a BD281 million surplus and BD2.8 billion reserves at the end of 2006 and until now no one knows what the government is planning to do with it, cons