Ordinary folk feel the pinch from tumbling kyat

The downward spiral of the kyat against the US dollar has taken its toll on the prices that people have to pay for everyday items like rice, fish, meat, and vegetables.

Housewives complain that even the prices of salt, fish paste and other condiments that are staples for ordinary folk have increased.

The prices of rice, eggs, onions and other vegetables are rising, housewives said.

“One pyi (2.13 kilograms) of rice, which cost K2000 (US$1.25) before, is now K2500. A bunch of watercress now costs between K400 and K500, up from K300,” one housewife said.

“The income of my husband and two sons, who pedal trishaws, is unstable. Sometimes we don’t have money, so we don’t eat,” she added.

She said the combined daily income of her husband and two sons is usually between K6000 and K7000.

“If I go to the market, that K6000 or K7000 evaporates. It costs a lot to buy things now,” said the 56-year-old housewife.

As prices increase, incomes are not rising to keep pace. Daw Yee Yee Thant, 65, said the price of an egg has increased from K110 to between K150 and 160, while the price of a viss (1.65kgs) of onion has doubled from K800 to K1600.

“It is going to be very difficult if the prices keep increasing. We are a family of 7, including my grandchildren. Although my daughter sells in the market in the evening, sales are not good as before. Our income does not match our expenses,” she said.

Ma Zin Mar Oo, who sells food at the top of 40th street, said her former customers, office workers and students, no longer buy as much from her as before. She said some of them bring their own lunches to save money.

“Sales are not good,” she said. “It is difficult to make ends meet, as prices have gone up. Before this recent round of price increases, my earnings were not bad. If commodity prices go up more, the hardships of poor people like us will worsen,” she added.

The current inflation rate is 8.18 percent, one of the highest in the region, according to government data.

Government and private economists say the dollar’s sharp spike is due to heightened uncertainty caused by the trade war between China and the US, which has led investors to buy more dollar-denominated assets.

The Central Bank of Myanmar has taken a slew of measures to try to stabilise the kyat, such as by selling millions of dollars from its foreign reserves to local banks, floating the exchange rate and launching a new currency swap facility. But the measures have been ineffective, as the dollar continues to rise.

“Based on the current situation, we cannot expect the exchange rate to fall below K1500 in the foreseeable future,” said economist U Aung Ko Ko.

U Than Soe, a political and economic analyst, said the government must take measures to alleviate the suffering of the country’s poorest people caused by high prices.

He added that the ministries should inform the public about the reasons behind the inflation, the possible length of time it will continue, how they plan to solve it, and when prices may go down, U Than Soe, a political and economic analyst, said.

“When the burden on the grassroots becomes too heavy, crimes like theft, robbery and fighting occur. Trishaw drivers, for example, will try to undercut each other so that they can have more passengers. This may lead to more crime and challenge the rule of law. We are worried about it,” he said.


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