So much has been said about the cost of living in Ethiopia, but things appear to have gotten worse. It is a topic that is always brought up in conversations, whether private or public. For many, particularly those living paycheck to paycheck, daily life is becoming increasingly burdensome.
There will come a time when silence can no longer be maintained, but for the time being, people appear to prefer to agonize in silence. Because joking about our misfortunes appears to be the only thing we can do to soften the impact, it has become commonplace to joke about salaries that evaporate as soon as they are received. Who do those of us who rely on a wage appeal to?
Companies and organizations, many of which appear oblivious to our problems, are increasing salaries by 10 to 20 percent, despite the fact that prices of consumer products have skyrocketed in a matter of months. Employees, however, do not complain frequently or to the extent of threatening to leave the companies they are employed by because they are well aware that the job market offers few alternatives if they abandon their current positions. Their only option is to accept their circumstances, even though it is a daily struggle, and hope for a miracle to save them.
Following the government’s decision to stop subsidizing national fuel expenses, fuel prices recently underwent another revision. And it is common knowledge that when the price of fuel rises, so do the prices of nearly everything else. Unfortunately, salaries do not rise as rapidly.
Those business owners who have the ability to pass on their own price increases to their consumers are fortunate, in my opinion. Salaried employees lack this option and are completely at the discretion of their employers. Moreover, it is not a secret that some businesses greatly benefit from the rising prices. Often, I think the price hikes they impose on their products and services are not proportional to the actual rise in input costs. Therefore, the wealthy are becoming wealthier while the poor are becoming poorer.
To make matters worse, private schools in Addis, and possibly the rest of the country as well, appear to have conspired to exacerbate the already difficult-to-manage high cost of living in our society. This year, tuition fee increases of over 50 percent appear to be the norm at numerous schools, and parents have begun petitioning the government for tuition fee reductions.
Can the government take any action to stop this? Maybe we should be asking, “Will the government do anything to stop this?” I recall that during the previous academic year, a few schools made headlines for the exorbitant tuition fee hikes they implemented. Many concerned parents voiced their opposition to paying such inflated prices in the media. However, by the end, little had changed. The schools continued with their tuition hikes, making only minor adjustments to the initial proposed increases.
My guess is that nothing will change this year. What can parents do then? Poor parents! How much more of the skyrocketing prices can they take? What other choice do they have if not to accept? We can only hope for a miracle.