More Telly, More Chilis as Fasting Month Begins

Prices of fuel and chilis spike as Ramadan begins in Indonesia, home to more Muslims than any other country

Ramadan Begins In Indonesia
Photographer: Robertus Pudyanto

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins June 18 in Southeast Asia, bringing with it increased religious observance as well as changes in lifestyle and consumption among the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. Here are three charts that show some of the economics behind the fasting month in Indonesia, home to 210 million Muslims, more than any other country in the world.

Gas guzzlers

People are on the move, especially toward the end of the month when tens of millions leave towns and cities to return to their ancestral villages. That means clogged roads, crowed airports and a spike in gasoline and jet-fuel consumption. It's also a time of shorter office days and, for many workers, an extended holiday. Most factories are closed for at least five days on either side of Eid-al-Fitr, at the end of the fasting month. Demand for diesel, which is used to power generators, slumps as a result.

Couch potatoes

Many observant Indonesian Muslims fill their downtime with increased prayer, reading of religious texts and going to the mosque. But it isn't all faith, all the time. Television viewing rises and soap operas, often featuring religious themes, dominate the airwaves. A second prime time emerges from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., when household members wake to cook and eat before the fast begins at daylight. 

Hot chilis

Abstinence in the day often means feasting and snacking late into the night, leading to greater demand for staples like rice, meat and vegetables. This generally leads to a spike in inflation, with vendors raising prices as people stock up on essentials and the country's crumbling infrastructure struggling to move goods around. Red chilis, a feature in nearly every savory Indonesian dish, have shot up over the last two weeks.

Not all higher prices can be blamed on Ramadan. Indonesia's inflation has remained elevated this year, with prices in May quickening above 7 percent, the fastest among major Asian economies.

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