Cost of Living (July 2011)

Living in rural Nigeria is somewhat inexpensive though Calabar can cost a bit more. The currency here is the Naira and it comes in denominations of 1000, 5000, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. The bills that are 50 and smaller are waterproof, with a thin plastic layer and the larger bills are the same consistency as the American dollar. It makes sense that the bills are waterproof in a country that tends to be quite humid and I am surprised not all the bills are like this. The exchange rate is around 150 Naira for 1 US dollar. Sorry to my friends in other countries but the US dollar is the gold standard, even in this blog so you’l have to do your own math. I am past the point of constant exchange so I will post everything here in Naira. People here have a thing with ripped bills; even the slightest tear or blemish will cause the merchant to reject your bill. Here in the village where circulation is on a small scale, this means people are always tryingto sneak in ripped bills. My organization will change our ripped bills at the bank but we wait until we have a massive amount, much to the displeasure of the teller.

Prices in village. Rate 150 Naira: $1 US
Pair of flip flops: 150
Hard boiled egg: 40
Bottle of soda: 70
appx. 36 oz. beer: 220-250
One liter of local booze (distilled palm wine): 200
Pineapple: 50
Five bananas: 20
Five cobs of maize: 50
One cup rice: 70
Three oranges: 20
Prepared meal of rice and beans: 100
One liter of palm oil: 150
One piece fried plantain or sweet potato: 10
Phone card (appx. 6 minutes talk time or 20 text message): 130
Roll of toilet paper: 60
Day labor for random jobs: 500
Half liter water in plastic bag: 10
Motorcycle ride from Iko Esai to highway: 250-500 depending on number of people and road condition
One liter gasoline: 100
One tailored shirt (exclusive of cloth): 400
Pants and shirt combo: 900
Cloth for shirt: 700
Cloth for combo: 1300
And thats pretty much all you can buy here. There are two shops with more exotic items like soap, toothpaste, bungee cords, batteries and what not but I will always buy these in Calabar because they are much cheaper. I feel like a teenage girl when I say this but I basically spend all my money on phone calls and clothes. The price of phone calls is inflated because the few spots where we do have phone network are inconsistent so I spend half my time saying,”Are you hearing me?”.
The governmnt recently increased the minimum wage 140% from about 7k to 18k. This is causing a huge problem for some of the poorer states in Nigeria and certainly for rural non-profit organizations. Most of our employees make about 10k a month and our senior staff make upward to 35k. We are facing a major problem as our staff has demanded the wage increase. This really frustrates me because they are some of the most well paid people in the village( in fact the only people with secure and consistent work!) and what they do not realize is that we will have to decrease staff and they will have to work more. Minimum wage is a great idea but can not possibly work in a country with such dramatic differences in cost of living. 18k is living large in the village but dirt poor in Lagos. Luckily we are not the only people in the country dealing with this issue and some of the government offices in the poorer northern states are protesting. Hopefully we can find an easy solution!

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