Achini Hewage, a 29-year-old mother of a 9-month-old infant earns Rs 40,000 per month and now finds it extremely difficult to survive, as all essentials that her baby needs are extremely expensive.
“The milk powder that is essential for my baby costs around Rs 3,000. This is only enough for a week. Therefore, basically I need Rs 12,000 just to buy the milkpowder. As I am working, it is hard for me to take care of my baby without diapers. A diaper is Rs 110 and the baby needs at least three diapers a day.
That is around Rs 10,000 per month. Feeding a slice of cheese per day is good for my baby. But it is also very costly. One packet of cheese is now Rs 1 500. We used to get ‘Thriposha’ for free, but now we do not get it. Therefore, I have to buy ‘Samaposha,’ which is around Rs 360. I can only feed the baby for a week from that one packet. Baby soap is a necessity, as we cannot use adult soap on babies or their clothes. That particular soap costs around Rs 200 and soap is something that dissolves quickly. How can I afford to buy all these at these rates?,” she lamented.
Achini finds her monthly income is not even enough to buy food products for a month. She said though her husband works, even their combined monthly income is not enough to purchase daily needs. She said with the high cost of living in the country, they have to loan money from their families at the end of each month. She also mentioned about health expenses related to her baby.
“The Government only provides vaccination to the infants if there are a group of infants.
They do not open a bottle just because there is a baby that needs to be vaccinated. And as we cannot wait in long waiting lists, we have chosen to go to a private hospital.
Six months ago, it cost around Rs 11,000 for three vaccinations. However, now it costs about Rs 25,000. That is half of my salary,” she said.
She added that these are the results of a corrupt Government and they are to blame for the present situation. Just because the cost of the basic necessities is increasing, does not mean that the salaries are increasing too, she said. She said if our salaries keep up with the cost of living, buying these products won’t be an issue. However, as the situation is not changing, everyone has to think thrice before buying what they need.
Colombo’s food inflation accelerated to the ‘nervous’ nineties in cricketing parlance, increasing to a record 90.9 per cent Year-on-Year (YoY) to month of July, Census and Statistics Department (CSD) data released recently showed.
Subsequently, overall inflation accelerated to a record high 60.8 per cent, beating its previous record of 50.46 per cent established only last month. Overall inflation has also accelerated for the tenth consecutive month to this month, similar to the acceleration of Colombo’s food inflation.
CSD data further showed that the cost of a Colombo family’s budget, this month over last month increased by Rs 5,990.89. However, CSD, vis-à-vis Colombo inflation, doesn’t show the comparative YoY increase of the cost of a family’s budget, unlike its countrywide data, which date will be released only on 19 August, that is, for the month of July 2022. In this connection, CSD data further showed that a family’s living expenses in Sri Lanka as a whole, increased by Rs 27,588.01 YoY to last month (June 2022). By accelerating to 90.9 per cent this month, its YoY acceleration for the tenth consecutive month, Colombo’s food inflation beats its previous highest record of 80.1 per cent established in only the last month (June 2022).In related developments, non-food inflation accelerated for the fifteenth month last month to a record high 64.5 per cent, beating its previous record of 42.40 per cent established last month.
Never before seen crisis
Anusha Perera, a housewife who takes care of her household with the salary of her husband, commented on the present situation as well.
“My husband, daughter, and I are living with a salary of Rs 40,000. Last year, it was somewhat easy for us to manage a good lifestyle amid a virus outbreak and lockdown. This year, the situation has changed completely. We still get that Rs 40,000, however, the prices of all the products have skyrocketed to a point where we have to think thrice before buying anything. We used to buy a loaf of bread every day. Now a loaf of bread is Rs 200. Sugar is Rs 320, rice is Rs 300, coconut is Rs 100, egg is Rs 50. Now, the whole salary is over within a week of payday. Not only the food, but also transport expenses are very high. We have to spend around Rs 300 to go to the supermarket to buy these awfully expensive food items,” she stressed.
She said earlier, she used to cook three or four curries for a meal, but now she only cooks one or two vegetables, the bare minimum.
“We used to eat good food. I used to make different types of dishes daily. However, today I cannot even manage to cook my own meal without worrying about how quickly I have to go to the supermarket again to buy vegetables at an exorbitant price. The times are desperate to a point where I eat only two meals per day,” she lamented.
“The Government, especially the one we had in the recent past, should be held accountable for these prices,” she said.
“I have lived in this country for the past 52 years, but I have never seen a situation like this. Now, not only have I to worry about the salary, but also have to take loans from my friends or family to survive,”she added.
She also said she cannot buy a packet of rice from a shop in an emergency, as it is also highly priced. She said even if she somehow manages to buy one, it is not enough for her family. She said she used to buy kottu, parata, and other food for dinner, but now she refrains from buying these types of food, as she needs around Rs 1,000 to feed one family member. She added that she cannot afford to buy a chocolate, something she likes very much every now and then, as it is priced like gold.
“Our country is on its deathbed,” she sobbed.
It was recently revealed that around 100,000 families are presently suffering from malnutrition, being unable to secure sufficient food.
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on National Food Security, Dr. Suren Batagoda said of this number around 75,000 families are presently struggling to survive, being unsure of what to consume daily.
Furthermore, he added that of the 75,000 families, around 40,000 families are receiving nutrition via saline.
He warned if Sri Lanka’s food security is not ensured, people will have to face a major nutritional deficiency next year.
Dr. Batagoda, noting that a sum of USD 900 million is required to uplift the agricultural sector,proposed to focus on starting a USD account for the future development of the agriculture sector due to the difficulties faced in obtaining such amount from the Treasury at once.
Dilini, a 23-year-old full-time employee at a private company, who is also pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree from a foreign university, finds it very difficult to manage daily tasks because of the economic constraints. She finds her life becoming stressful and turning from bad to worse with each passing day. She said life as a university student who is employed full-time is extremely tense because of the high cost of living.
“I am enrolled at a foreign university. All payments are made in foreign currency. Because of the forex crisis in the country, it is really difficult to manage the payments. Exam payments that were Rs 200,000 are now Rs 400,000. It is not that the university has increased their fee. It is due to the forex crisis in Sri Lanka,” she stressed.
She said due to low income, once she pays for her education, she barely has anything left for herself. “Fortunately, I live with my parents and they cover my food expenses. Some of my friends who are living in hostels have had to leave because they were unable to pay for both their rent and education,” she added.
She also said she used to spend about Rs 1,500 a day on vegetables,snacks, and drinks. She lamented that at present Rs 1,500 is not even enough to buy a meal.
“As I am employed full-time, I cannot take up another job to earn a few extra rupees. Also, work itself has gotten stressful. A lot of my colleagues find it difficult to travel to Colombo due to the fuel crisis. Those who are boarded in Colombo have been unable to pay their rent, therefore, they have been asked to leave,” she said.
Within a very short period, the cost of living has increased unbelievably. Everybody is in survival mode. A person cannot even afford to drink a milk tea to unwind, as prices have soared. Food items are too expensive and public transport fares are outrageously high.
By Aloka Kasturiarachchi