Kuwait markets witnessed a hike in the prices of many food items and consumer goods in light of the partial curfew imposed by the government to confront the spread of the COVID-19 virus, as well as the disappearance of promotional offers in cooperative societies and parallel markets, reports Al-Shahid daily. According to an official from the Union of Consumer Cooperative Societies (UCCS), there is an increase in the rate of commodity purchase, which has led to an increase in the prices of some items. Some fear the effect of the partial curfew on the supply of goods due to which they choose to buy more than what is required in order to store them. The losses have affected various economic activities. A recent report issued by the Restaurants and Cafes Association revealed the complete closure of more than 40 percent of restaurants in one year from February 2020 to February 2021 due to the decisions and procedures implemented for closing this sector.
As per a document issued by the Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) recently, the total number of expatriates whose residencies have expired due to their presence outside Kuwait in light of the precautionary measures taken by the state to confront COVID-19, reached about 692,000 as of the end of February. The largest percentage of them are Egyptians. Kuwait is experiencing one of its worst economic crises due to the effects of COVID- 19 and the decline in the price of oil, which is the main source of more than 90 percent of government revenues. The Cabinet had decided to impose a partial curfew in all parts of the country, from March 7 to April 8.
During the partial curfew, Kuwait witnessed severe congestion on all the streets and roads, especially during peak hours when people were returning home from work in the evening. The government decided not to take legal measures against the violators. The source from UCCS affirmed that all necessary goods and products are available, and the level of anxiety witnessed among shoppers in the supermarkets is unjustified, calling on citizens and residents not to buy excessively and store goods. He expressed hope that the curfew hours will be reduced in the coming period so that citizens and residents can go to supermarkets without jostling and having fear of running out of stocks. At the same time, he stressed that a calm state is expected to return to the markets in the coming days.
Meanwhile, an economics professor at Kuwait University Mansour Al-Rashidi said the wave of high prices witnessed during the first few days of the partial curfew in Kuwait was expected. At the same time, he warned that the prices could rise dramatically during the coming period, especially during the initial days of the month of Ramadan. Prof. Al-Rashidi noted that the government is responsible for the high prices due to the random decisions and the confusion that prevails in the public arena in the recent period. He indicated that the decision to close supermarkets and shops during the curfew hours and not grant permits would contribute to an increase in congestion in these shopping outlets in addition to a new wave of high prices.
A Kuwaiti citizen Ali Mubarak said he noticed a significant rise in the prices of many products by up to 50 percent. He indicated that the curfew timings are very difficult as he returns from work at 4:00 pm and does not have enough time to buy home supplies. Furthermore, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry recently affirmed that all goods and products are available in all cooperative societies and other supermarkets, and there is no need to worry, as the strategic stock of basic commodities and products is sufficient to last for more than six months. It stressed that it will reconsider the decision to stop granting permits to citizens and residents to go to cooperative societies and other supermarkets during the curfew period. In this regard, an informed source indicated that the ministry may issue a decision to allow these shopping outlets to operate during the curfew period until 10:00pm.
In addition, an economy expert Hajjaj Boukhdhour said, “Kuwait has returned to square one because of the curfew decision that was imposed, which will last for a month. All countries in the region have abandoned the idea of curfew and lockdown, as they caused many other kinds of crises such as shortage of goods and high prices. The government should provide all goods and services at reasonable prices”. He indicated that the decision to tighten precautionary measures and impose curfews will cause a wave of layoffs of employees from their work and deteriorate the living conditions of many people in the country.