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Ethiopians mark Coptic new year amid persistent inflation

Ethiopian women walk down a street, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, Ethiopia follows the Eastern Orthodox calendar.   -  
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Ethiopians started celebrations marking the Coptic New Year, known as Enkutatash.

However, the festivities are tinged with a sombre undertone as they are overshadowed by the daunting challenges brought about by high inflation, a consequence of ongoing political and economic instability in the nation.

Venturing into Addis Ababa, the bustling capital city and the heart of its vibrant marketplaces, the impact of inflation becomes evident. 

The streets are adorned with colourful stalls that offer a fleeting glimpse of the holiday spirit.

Yet, beneath the festive facade, the prices of essential groceries such as onions, chickens, and spices reflect a harsh reality. Shoppers faces were marked by surprise and concern, scrutinizing the market for a good deal.

Adanech Melese is a single mother of one. She used to make a living by selling vegetables on the streets of Addis Ababa.

However, she has had to put that livelihood on hold as the soaring prices of vegetables from distributors have rendered her business unsustainable.

Today, she came to the market with the intention of purchasing chicken and onions, only to reluctantly abandon her shopping as the cost of these items has become unmanageable for her.

"I came to purchase some onions, but they are quoting prices of 70 to 75 birr (1.25-1.35 US dollars), which I cannot afford, so I have decided to leave them. Even the chickens are quite expensive, with prices ranging from 1200 to 1300 birr (21-23 US dollars). The smaller female chickens are said to be priced at 600 to 650 birr (10-12 US dollars). I had hoped to enjoy the holiday within my budget, but unfortunately, the prices are beyond my means."

War economy

Some street vendors like Adanech Melese have put that livelihood on hold as the soaring prices of vegetables from distributors have rendered their business unsustainable.

One of the country's prominent economists explains the intricate economic dynamics at play.

‘‘Ethiopia is currently in [a war economy phase]. And in a war economy, commodities tend to be scarce. The number of people in the productive sector decreases so much as we have the conflict zones that will be excluded from production," Costantinos Berhe says.

 ‘‘The third thing is the government’s budgets tend to inflate for military expenditure.’’

According to the economist, the trade deficit is also to blame for "the hyperinflation or stagflation" that the country has experienced for the past four to five years, where inflation rages between 30 and 40 percent.

"This has its basis on changes in the exchange rate where the country is importing more than 20-billion-dollar worth of commodities and services. And it is exporting also very limited items.’’

Despite the adversity, Ethiopians are steadfast in their determination to celebrate the New Year 2016.

Enkutatash is observed on September 12 this year.

 There is traditionally a series of events during the Ethiopian New Year celebration, including family reunions and the slaughter of sheep, goats, or oxen, depending on the financial capability of a household.

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