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Sun 7 Oct 2007 11:29 PM

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UAE gets tough on Ramadan price hikes

Newspaper ads hammer home message that businesses exploiting consumers will be closed down.

The government of the UAE, struggling to contain inflation, warned businesses yesterday against increasing prices in the run-up to celebrations that mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The economy ministry, which says inflation hit a 19-year high of 9.3% in 2006, took out advertisements in newspapers urging suppliers and retailers to "avoid all forms of exploitation of consumers".

Prices tend to rise in some Muslim countries in the run-up to the the Eid Al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food, drink and sex between dawn and dusk. Ramadan ends next week.

The ministry will prosecute violators of consumer protection rules and could close their shops, it said in advertisements published in newspapers including Gulf News and Emirates Today.

The UAE Ministry of Economy said last week it had already closed 41 shops for commercially exploiting consumers during Ramadan.

Assistant deputy commissioner for corporate control Hamid Ali Al-Muhairi said inspections from the ministry and municipal authorities had revealed prices of vegetables, fruits and meat had increased by up to 20% in some districts during the holy month.

The central bank is hamstrung in its efforts to contain inflation by the need to shadow US interest rates to maintain the relative appeal of the dirham which is pegged to the dollar.

The dollar tumbled to record lows against a basket of six currencies last week, driving up the cost of the UAE's imports from Europe and some parts of Asia. It also hurts most expatriates working in the UAE, where foreigner make up more than 80 percent of the population.

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