|Rising living costs in the oPt|
Taxi drivers in Ramallah and Nablus share their stories
Ahmad Dabour (Abu Murad) is a Palestinian refugee residing in Al Jalazun Refugee Camp. His household includes his wife and three daughters, one of whom is divorced and has three children of her own. Since 2002, he has worked as a taxi driver in Ramallah city.
“My daily income is about NIS 300 (USD 75); half of this amount goes towards fuel and the remaining part is divided between me (1/3) and the taxi office (2/3). This means that my actual daily income ranges between NIS 65 and NIS 75, at best,” Abu Murad said.
According to Abu Marad, his monthly income is not enough to cover his family needs, including electricity and water bills and other daily costs. In order to cover expenses, including college fees for one of his daughters, Abu Murad took out a loan for USD 3,000 from a local lending organization, leaving him with a monthly payment of USD 105. For the past three months, however, he has been unable to make the payment. His family largely depends on buying on credit from small shops in the refugee camp.
For Abu Murad, and some of his co-workers, the financial crisis has deepened following rises in living costs, such as the doubling of fuel prices over the past 10 years, the recent increases in taxation imposed by the PA Ministry of Transportation, and the rise in traffic violation fines issued by the PA traffic police. “When I started working as a taxi driver in 2002, fuel cost NIS 3.5 per liter; it now costs NIS 7 per liter. Meanwhile, passenger rates have not increased at the same rate.”
Like Abu Murad, Talal Dwikat, a 38-year-old resident of Beita village in Nablus, feels his financial situation has grown desperate. Talal is a father of seven children, four of whom are enrolled in schools. For the past eight years he has been working as a taxi driver, transporting people back and forth between the cities of Nablus and Ramallah. Roughly half of Talal’s monthly income goes to cover the cost of fuel. A large portion of the remaining half goes towards other expenses, including car maintenance and taxes. He estimates that only one-fifth of his monthly earnings is personal income, and it is insufficient to meet his family’s needs.
Talal’s coping mechanisms are limited: he has no savings, so he borrows money from people, and his family has been forced to cut down on food expenditures. For example, the family now consumes meat only on a few occasions during the year. Talal notes “unlike the previous ‘Eid, this year I was unable to buy new clothes for my children during ‘Eid al Fitr or take them anywhere to make them happy. I participated in the September strikes because I want to be able to draw a smile on my children’s faces during the next ‘Eid.”