BEIRUT: A 5.3 percent increase in food prices since January 2013 largely balanced out a 19.3 percent drop in the clothing and footwear category, according to the Central Administration for Statistics, while Lebanon’s official Consumer Price Index registered little overall change last month.
The CAS Consumer Price Index for January 2014, issued Friday, showed a minor 0.1 percent increase from December and a 0.33 percent decrease compared to January 2013. By category, the largest movements were in the price of clothing and footwear, which dropped 9.9 percent; food and non-alcoholic beverages, which increased 2.3 percent; and a slight upturn in the cost of alcoholic beverages and tobacco, which rose 1 percent, as compared with December 2013.
Education expenses, while showing no change from the previous month, witnessed an increase of 7.04 percent over the last 12 months. This increase comes after protests in 2013 by students at the Lebanese American University and American University of Beirut over tuition hikes.
While the overall lack of movement in the CPI suggests relative stability in the local market, the internal variations could have an impact on certain economic sectors. Lebanon is highly dependent on its service sector, especially the restaurant and hotel sector that witnessed a 3.94 percent price increase since January 2013, despite the significant decrease in the number of tourists visiting the country.
With the country remaining in difficult economic times and experiencing high unemployment, rising food prices, which are weighted at 19.9 percent of the CPI, are likely to impact Lebanese families’ budgets more than dropping clothing prices, which are weighted at 6.2 percent by the CAS.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 22, 2014, on page 4.