...Pasaka ya kichovu zaidi Wakuu. Nimeshakula pasaka zaidi ya 36, lakini hii ya mwaka huu naona ndio ya KICHOVU ZAIDI kuliko zote katika kumbukumbu zangu za hivi karibuni...:angry: Easter with a difference as cost of living rises By Polycarp Machira The Citizen, D'Salaam Harsh economic conditions have changed the way people shop ahead of major religious festivals. A survey conducted by The Citizen on Sunday just before and at the start of the Easter holidays established that business was slow with markedly fewer people shopping for basic commodities compared to previous festivities. The cheerful mood that has been synonymous with Easter celebrations is slowly fading, courtesy of consumers' diminishing purchasing power. A cross section of Dar es Salaam residents interviewed confirmed that they had cut their spending during the holidays. The prices of clothes, foodstuffs and other items that usually spice up the Easter season have spiralled beyond the reach of many people. A random survey in various parts of Dar es Salaam over the past week has established that some traders who had raised prices in anticipation of increased demand were left thoroughly disappointed. Business at major shopping centres in the city remained virtually the same throughout the week, and traders were quick to blame the high cost of living. Economists have warned that rising inflation will continue to affect the purchasing power of consumers. They argue that high fuel prices, which are major determinants of price trends, were another factor that has pushed up the cost of living in recent months. "This is not what we had expected. I had ordered new stock ahead of the holidays, hoping that people would have saved for the festival and sales would go up during this period. I was wrong. There has not been a noticeable increase in the number of customers in the last few weeks," said Ms Tabitha Mosha, who sells women's clothes at Kariakoo. She added that business in the run-up to the Easter holidays was "very bad" compared to sales ahead of Idd ul Fitr, Christmas and New Year festivities. But the story was different for those selling cards and gift items. A spot check by The Citizen on Sunday at the Mlimani City shopping mall showed that people were in a rush to purchase such items. Consumers, on the other hand, accused traders of taking advantage of the festive season to increase prices, and asked the government to intervene. They said the government should control commodity prices during major holidays. "It has for many years been the norm for traders to increase prices steeply during such holidays with the aim of reaping super profits. It's time the government stopped this trend," said Sinza resident Rashid Juma. He added, however, that he hoped traders had learnt their lesson after high prices kept buyers away ahead of the Easter holidays. Comparing this Easter to last year's, Mr Juma said prices of women's and children's clothes had almost doubled, making it hard for people in the low and even middle-income brackets to afford them. But some traders defended the price increases, saying they had been necessitated by the falling value of the shilling against the US dollar, which they use to import goods. Mr Mohamed Malya, who owns a shop in Kinondoni, said inflation and the depreciation of the shilling were the main causes of price increases. "We have to accept the fact that inflation is high, and the prices of almost all commodities have gone up," he said adding: "It's possible that consumers' purchasing power has decreased, but this is not an excuse to drastically reduce one's expenditure." Foodstuffs were abundant ahead of and at the beginning of the Easter holidays, but traders said there was a shortage of buyers. A survey by The Citizen on Sunday established that the price of beef had gone up, with a kilo selling for between Sh4,000 and Sh4,500 before the Easter holidays. A kilo of rice was retailing for between Sh1,100 and Sh1,700, depending on the grade. Prices of live chicken ranged from Sh7,000 and Sh15,000, with size of the birds being the determining factor. Prices of various food items were highest at the Kisutu market, in the city centre. A trader, Mr Mohamed Saleh, said the prices were "nothing unusual" for those who shopped regularly at the bazaar. "Food items sold here are of the highest quality, and people who come here can afford them. They come here because they know that this is the only place they can get fresh food items of the highest quality…they know that they are getting what they are paying for," he said.