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Paying the price

The Christian Science Monitor observes that those who say the U.N. and NGO's are having little or no measurable effect on the lives of tsunami vicitms are not quite correct: They're driving up prices, making everyday goods costly or impossible to buy for the local population.

Increased demand and reduced supply have already caused the prices of some staples to creep up in the wake of the disaster, with small and large market vendors saying that some of the most popular items, like rice and sugar, have risen between 10 and 20 percent. Peanuts and palm oil are up more than 50 percent. The higher food prices squeeze the budgets of ordinary Acehnese, whose average per capita income in 2002 was slightly more than $250 a year.

The sharpest increase by far has been in goods and services purchased by aid workers and organizations, such as sport utility vehicles, drivers, translators, and space in homes. Before the disaster, a car and driver that might have cost almost $50 per day in Banda Aceh might now go for almost $100 per day. Scalpers are buying large amounts of plane tickets and selling them for at least 30 percent above normal prices, and a four-bedroom house often rents for over $100 per day.
Previously, I suggested that U.N. interference in coordination of operations largely conducted by military forces of the U.S. and other nations would have a detrimental effect by slowing down relief delivery and by squandering valuable funds.

I have to admit though, I never thought to add inflation to the list of negative consequences.




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