Shopkeepers in Kabul's markets are worried that customary shopping in the run-up to Eid may not pick up.
"Business is weak this year," says one in the west of the city. "Most of our customers have tightened their purses. People are jobless. When there is no income, people are forced to cut down on daily expenses. Only a few are doing Eid shopping."
At a shop selling readymade clothes, there was a crowd but the shopkeeper who introduced himself as Ahmad Zubair is still concerned about the market. "The situation is not good compared to previous years," he says. "We can hardly pay the rent on the shop, and other expenses. Last Ramadan business was splendid, but this year it is like never before," he adds gloomily.
A rise in prices of everything is being viewed as the reason for people not being able to spend money on Eid shopping, which is customarily when families buy new clothes for instance.
Seyamudin Psarlai, spokesperson for the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, confirms markets are slow, and the recent spate of suicide attacks and the protests that followed in Kabul, during Ramadan, have caused disruptions in both arrival of goods and movement of customers.
"Unfortunately, traders and the private sector faced many problems due to the incidents that occurred in Kabul. Their goods were not allowed to enter Kabul, so when supply decreased, demand spiked and prices automatically rose," he told Killid. Kabul witnessed two suicide blasts in quick succession.
Moreover, when overall the buying ability of people is low, traders stock less, prices are high, and the only things affordable are perishables, on which traders lose money.
Officially, there are no complaints. Authorities in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries reject there has been a rise in prices of essentials, and insist there is effective monitoring processes in place.
Musafer Quqandi, the spokesperson says, "The price of essential foodstuff like rice, ghee, flour and meat has not changed but the price of some items like milk, cheese, jam, honey and others was high in the first week of Ramadan because of rising demand but it has since come down."
He says that there has been a growth in the economy since Afghanistan became a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The growth rate is 2 percent, he adds.
"Fortunately there are laws to support consumers and no one has the right to charge unreasonable prices. At the same time, prices are being monitored by committees that are listening to people's complaints," Quqandi says while urging the media and ordinary people to help the government stop shopkeepers from overcharging.
Hasibullah Moahedi from the Central Statistics Organisation (CSO) points out that economic growth was slow last year as a result of joblessness and poverty. An estimated 39 percent of the work force was unemployed last year, and poverty grew 39.1 percent.
With incomes shrinking, people do not spend and the economy does not have a change to grow. Abdul Qahat Sarwari would like the government to find jobs and increase people's purchasing power.
Economist Reza Mirzayee thinks people who may have savings are not spending because of anxieties about the "unstable political situation". He says the poor business during Ramadan is directly related to lack of security. "Insecurity has increased considerably across the country," he says.
Up to the recent past, residents of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif led relatively secure lives, and were hopeful about their future. But now people in these Afghan cities live in constant fear of attacks and bomb blasts.