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Lesley Walker / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only

The cost of food and transport jumped last month amid an economic blockade against Qatar by its neighbors.

But the crisis barely affected the overall cost of living in the country during July, new government statistics show.

Goods and services for local residents were up just 0.2 percent in July compared to the same time last year, according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Pixabay

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

That’s because spikes in food and transport were offset by declining costs in other areas, including housing and clothing.

Food costs jump

Food and drink rose 4.5 percent compared to July 2016, while transport costs shot up 7.5 percent year-on-year, the Ministry of Development, Planning and Statistics (MDPS) said yesterday.

The higher costs of food won’t come as a surprise to Qatar residents.

Many have complained about rising grocery prices since the neighboring Arab states began their blockade of Qatar in early June.

Shabina S. Khatri / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

In particular, the cost of fresh produce and dairy goods, many of which were previously brought in from Saudi Arabia, appear to have seen the biggest jumps in price.

This is despite the Qatari government covering much of the additional cost of importing them from further away.

Notably, food costs are more controlled in Ramadan, which ended in late June.

MDPS

Food and drink price increases, July 2017 CPI

This as well as the blockade could explain why June prices rose only by 2.4 percent compared to the same month last year.

Other areas that showed inflation in July include education costs, which rose 3 percent year-on-year; and healthcare, which went up 2.8 percent.

The cost of several other household expenditures fell last month however, offsetting any increases. They include:

  • Clothing and footwear: Down 4.3 percent year-on-year;
  • Water, housing, electricity and fuel: Down 3.6 percent;
  • Recreation and culture: Down 2.5 percent;
  • Miscellaneous goods and services: Down 2 percent;
  • Communication costs: Down 1.1 percent;
  • Restaurants and hotels: Down 0.8 percent; and
  • Furniture and household equipment: Down 0.7 percent.

Meanwhile, tobacco costs remained flat, year-on-year.

So, although some of the prices stickers on goods at the supermarket give the impression that life in Qatar is more expensive, actually in many areas, it is cheaper than it was at the same time last year.

At the beginning of this year, the CPI stood at 1.2 percent – and that was the lowest it had been in the previous 12 months.

Rental drops

Increasingly expensive residential rental accommodation had been one of the main factors affecting living costs throughout 2015 and early 2016.

Peter Kovessy

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, the residential rental market began softening in the latter part of last year, continuing through early 2017.

Real estate agents DTZ reported in May that slower population growth and increased supply in some housing areas have translated into rent reductions of around QR1,000 a month compared to the last quarter of 2016.

How has your budget changed in Qatar? Thoughts?

Doha News

Vox Cinema at DFC

Updated at 2pm with new statement from Vox Cinemas

Less than four months after it opened, Vox Cinemas at Doha Festival City (DFC) has temporarily closed for health violations.

The 18-screen luxury movie theater was ordered to shut last Thursday (Aug. 10) by inspectors for flouting the country’s food and hygiene laws.

The shutters are down at the entrance of the cinema complex and stickers issued by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME/Baladiya) are attached to the entrance.

Doha News

Closure notice at Vox Cinema, DFC

The notices state that the premises were closed for “violating humans’ food control,” in breach of municipal laws and regulations.

The MME usually posts details of such closures online.

But its site has not been updated with information of the cinema closure and it is unclear how long Vox will be remain shut.

Murky details

Initially, some residents wondered if the closure was due to the ongoing dispute with Qatar’s neighbors.

Vox is operated by the UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim Group.

But in a statement to Doha News, Vox Cinemas said its Qatar outpost is “temporarily closed due to essential work behind the scenes to improve the cinema going experience for our guests.”

It later added:

“We are working with the Doha Festival City mall team to correct some concerns by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment that were raised in their recent inspections, and have taken immediate action to ensure that the Municipality’s requirements are exceeded at all times.

At VOX Cinemas, we are committed to providing a safe and enjoyable environment for our guests.”

It has not responded to requests for more details.

Publicly, Vox tweeted last week that its theaters had shut due to “maintenance” issues. But this post has since been deleted.

It later posted a more general notice about its closure.

Meanwhile, a DFC spokesperson told Doha News that there was an “operational issue.”

“At Doha Festival City, ensuring our visitors’ have the best experience with us is of the utmost importance.

Hence we support our partner VOX Cinemas’ decision to temporarily close while they resolve an operational issue. We look forward to welcoming guests back soon.”

Food laws

The closure comes less than four months after Vox Cinemas opened to the public, on April 26 this year.

The multiplex has 18 screens, including theaters providing multi-sensory 4D viewing.

In addition to providing the usual cinema snacks of popcorn, chips and chocolate, Vox also has a private lounge where viewers can eat a meal with dishes created by Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes while they watch a movie.

It is unclear which of Qatar’s food laws Vox violated to bring officials to order its temporary closure.

MME’s authority

Inspectors from the MME regularly undertake spot checks of all food establishments across the country, from local grocery stores and warehouses to mall restaurants and five-star hotels.

They have the power to order penalty closures of between a few days to two months if they find serious breaches.

The MME typically shuts establishments if they are found to have had expired foodstuffs, are selling food unfit for consumption or have been preparing food in unhygienic conditions.

MME

Lodz Restaurant

At least three other establishments were closed this month, according to MME’s website.

Yasrib Cafeteria, which serves affordable Indian fare in the Souq area, was closed on Aug. 9 for one month, for preparing food in unhygienic conditions.

On the same day, Indian eatery Lodz restaurants in Al Thumama was ordered to close for 10 days, also for unhygienic conditions.

Meanwhile yesterday, the butchery department at Big Bazaar hypermarket in Umm Slal Ali was shut for two weeks after inspectors found meat without an expiry date and with no information about its origins.

Thoughts?

Pietro Izzo / Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Qatar does not import eggs from the Netherlands and its products are thus contaminant-free and safe to eat, the local health ministry has said.

However, authorities have withdrawn some samples of eggs with European origins from shelves for extra testing.

The move comes after millions of chicken eggs were recalled in Europe this week over health concerns.

Reem Saad / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

The eggs had apparently become contaminated after some Dutch farms illegally used a toxic pesticide called fipronil.

According to the World Health Organization, fipronil can cause organ damage if consumed in large quantities, Reuters reports.

Product testing

In a statement, Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health said egg imports in Qatar come from 10 different nations.

That includes six Arab nations, three European countries and one East Asian nation.

However, MOPH did not go into further details about the imports’ origins.

But it did say that all egg imports undergo “periodic analysis and inspection” at ministry food laboratories, and currently meet all approved standards.

Thoughts?