Ramadan: New Economic Activities vs. Slowdown in Government Business [Archives:2001/46/Business & Economy]

November 12 2001

Islam calls upon all Muslims to work in the month of Ramadan similarly as every other month of the year as the holy month is for worshipping and work alike. However, what happens during the month of Ramadan is that production remarkably declines at most of the government departments which consequently affects the ratio of economic growth.
Slower economic activities and lower production
Economic studies reveal that the reasons behind the low economic activities at the administrative departments, factories and government’s corporations are the reduction of working hours at the rate of 3 hours on a daily basis and one-month obligatory leave of absence given to 20% of civil servants during the holy month of Ramadan. Studies also show that the rate of decline of economic and production activities at the different government departments, particularly the manufacturing industries, averages 4.5%, while reaching 4% in public service sectors and 5% in transportation, storage and telecommunication.
High demand for foodstuffs
In contrast, the private sector achieves good results regarding its production, especially the dairy, yogurt, beverages, juices, and fruits and vegetables. The reason for this increase is certainly owing to the higher demand for foodstuffs by the people who double their consumption of milk products and beverages in this fasting period. Therefore, the private sector companies tend to increase their production in order to meet the high demands of consumers, and earn much higher revenues than during the rest of the year. Similarly, as the private sector companies partially fail to meet the local markets’ demands for foodstuffs, import companies also enjoy a big share of the more important incomes made during the holy month. However, the increase in sales during the month of Ramadan does not mean a general improvement in the performance of the national economy as this surge in sales is mostly seasonal rather than being an overall improvement.
Employment opportunities for the jobless
Merchants say that the month of Ramadan gives the jobless people opportunities to work in providing foodstuffs. During the holy month of Ramadan, many people start various businesses, such as trading with fast food, chilies, dates, juices, religious books, vegetables and fruits.
Ultimately, the clothing trade also reaches its peak by the end of Ramadan since purchasing new clothes for all the members of the family is a part of the Eid’s celebration. Yet, these activities, as stated by many business owners, are not a solution for the problem of unemployment since this is just a seasonal job that merely covers the expenses of the month of Ramadan and Eid.
Furthermore, many of the bakers, widely seen during Ramadan selling the home-made breads known as “lahuh,” raise their sales by roughly 40% in comparison with the rest of the year. This is mainly because this kind of bread is greatly used for certain meals during the holy month of Ramadan.
Yet, it is obvious that the prices at local markets sharply increase during the month of Ramadan, which affect employees with low income. Although fasting is an obligation for Muslims in order to make rich Muslims feel the suffering of their poor brothers, we find that the merciless merchants double the prices of most products in a drive to make fast earnings. The government should verify the reasons behind the decline of economic activities and find proper remedies that could ensure a fast recovery for our national economy.