Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Yes, prices are rising! - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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I do not know what harm there is in recognizing that the price of goods and services is rising, and that the state of global economic inflation is having an impact upon all goods and services without exception. Consider gold and diamonds on the one hand, and iron and copper on the other, not forgetting the continuing price rise in grains such as wheat and barley, and of course the ongoing escalation of oil and gas prices.

There are various causes for rising prices, some of which are purely economic and connected to the issue of supply and demand; others are natural or climatic, relating to fluctuations in the atmosphere or weather that can cause crop failure, scarcities or distribution delays. There are also reasons relating to the increasing costs of the product itself, due to rising labor costs or new expenditures stemming from transportation or auxiliary and additional materials.

A price rise is a natural and understandable phenomenon in economics and should not be met with “amazement” or “surprise”, nor should we let our critical discourse descend to the level of demonizing traders and questioning their patriotism and honor, or making them scapegoats for global economic factors. Even if we come across cases of greed and exploitation, these are the exceptions to the general rule, and this is what we must focus on.

The real danger lies in the official speeches and statements that deny the existence of inflation – hence getting off on the wrong foot in the first place – and explain what is happening as “imported inflation” along with other false assessments.

What is better and more important is to explain the matter with transparency. The whole world is suffering from remarkable and sustained price rises, in building materials, foodstuffs, minerals and energy resources. We cannot accept or justify increasing the price of our oil and gas commodities, explaining to the rest of the world that it is a natural issue primarily and directly related to supply and demand, and then be surprised to see rising prices for steel, tomatoes and chicken, as if it were a miraculous phenomenon contrary to the laws of the universe!

In the absence of clear and transparent information and statistics – for which I blame the Arab economic ministries that are not performing the role assigned to them – it is in the interest of our nations and citizens to heed this basic rule: There will always be gossip, rumors and accusations, and directing blame upon those who do not deserve it.

The subject of price rises will not go away, and thus temporary solutions will be of no use and will not produce any tangible results for the people.

A radical adjustment is required whereby our governments should openly provide information to the people, honest figures about the current state of affairs and sincere expectations for the future. Only then will it be possible to say that we are respecting people’s intellect and dealing realistically with the economy and its variables.

Price rises are an integral feature of the goods and services economy. The important thing is to be honest and open and seek other alternatives and options to break the existing monopolies. This is the way to overcome the confusion, anxiety and doubt that prevails over matters such as price rises. We cannot accept official statements that “deny” inflation, or claim that the only problem is “imported inflation”, for this is misleading and the people deserve more honesty than this.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

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