Prices increases for consumer goods in Qatar slowed for the second straight month in October, as lower international food costs helped give local shoppers a break at the cash register.
However, those who are looking for new rental accommodations or are renewing their lease could be forgiven for failing to notice.
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) – which helps track the changes in prices of a defined basket of everyday goods and services – rose 3 percent in October compared to the same month in 2013. That’s down from year-over-year increases of 3.6 percent in September and 3.8 percent in August.
As in past months, the increase recorded in October was mostly driven by the escalating cost of renting residential property in Qatar. The government statistics showed a 8.2 percent rise in “rents, fuel and energy” for the 12 months to October.
This is one of the biggest increases in recent years and is up slightly from last month’s figures, which showed a rise of 8.1 percent year-on-year for the same sector.
According to figures published this week by the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics, prices also increased for:
- Furniture, textiles and home appliances (up 3.5 percent);
- Clothes and shoes (up 2.9 percent);
- Transport and communications (up 1.7 percent);
- Entertainment, recreation and culture (up 1 percent); and
- Medical care and medical services (up 0.8 percent).
This is broadly in line with recent trends for food prices and reflects Qatar National Bank’s predictions made this summer that food in Qatar would get cheaper.
This is in part due to bountiful harvests around the world, which have pushed down global food prices.
As Qatar imports almost all of its food requirements, the cost of edibles internationally is an important aspect of its economy.
In a report, the bank said that the lower food prices would help offset the rising cost of rental accommodation, keeping Qatar’s inflation at around 3.5 percent until 2015.
However, one foodstuff which is is bucking this trend is ginger, which has been rationed by some supermarkets in Doha as prices are pushed up due to an international shortage.
Safari Mall has set a limit of half-a-kilo of ginger per person in a bit to meet demand for the root, which is a crucial ingredient in Indian and South Asian cooking, Gulf Times reports.
The newspaper quotes the hypermarket’s fresh produce manager as saying the shortage it attributable to heavy rain in India that has affected the country’s harvest. At this particular store, the price of ginger has risen from QR10/kg to QR18/kg.
Coinciding with the publication of the latest CPI figures that show a rise in the cost of furnishing a home, the International Bank of Qatar announced this week it was launching an interest-free loan for Qatar nationals and expats to buy high-end furniture.
The first loan of its kind in Qatar aims to attract many of the thousands of expats who move here each month as the country gears up to deliver its numerous infrastructure projects in time.
While there are a number of brand-label home furnishings stores in Qatar, for a long time there was a shortage of affordable furniture, with residents relying on second hand sales and Souq Haraj for bargains, until Ikea finally opened its doors in March last year.
However, that doesn’t appear to have stopped the ongoing hike in prices.
While the new bank loan program will help some shoppers experiencing temporary cash-flow problems, such as new expats incurring moving expenses, it could also encourage residents to take on more debt.
Despite being one of the richest places on the planet, Qatar is also a country mired in debt. A 2011 government report found that three-quarters of Qatari families are in debt, with the median household owing QR250,000.
In 2011, the government attempted to alter public attitudes with an awareness campaign under the banner, “Debt is disgraceful.”