Immediate steps to arrest price spirals essential
THE fresh hike in the prices of a number of essential commodities, as mentioned in a report published in New Age on Sunday, over the last fortnight yet again highlights the indifference of the Awami League-Jatiya Party government towards the misery of the people at large. According to the report, prices of edible oil, flour, coarse flour, sugar, eggs, meat and fish have marked an increase that has surpassed even the highest ever price spirals in 2008. Moreover, it has occurred at a time when the prices of different essential items on the international market are yet to surpass the 2008 level, which was then held largely responsible for the price spirals on the domestic market. In other words, essentials’ prices have gone up here unlike in other countries.
Soaring prices have become a growing concern ever since the incumbent government took office in 2009. With a significant erosion of their income due to this, people in general and the low-income groups in particular have since been suffering a lot. On the other hand, repeated spikes in the tariffs of power and energy which led to increase in transport fare rate and house rent, in the past three years or so have aggravated their woes manifold. Suffice it to say, the fresh hike in question has invariably compounded their condition further. Notably, people at large have to spend more than 50 per cent of their income for purchasing food. Besides, as a study conducted by the Consumers Association of Bangladesh revealed last year, due to unabated surge in food price, people belonging to low-income brackets have to cut down on their food intakes putting their nutrition sufficiency at risk. Meanwhile, according to a report of the Asian Development Bank, published just recently, a ten per cent rise in the prices of essentials would push around 4 million more people in Bangladesh into extreme poverty.
Undeniably, the incumbents’ wrong perceptions about market mechanism and macroeconomic mismanagement have led to all this. In addition, in violation of its electoral manifesto, it has so far failed to activate the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, dormant for long, in a bid to arrest price spirals by ensuring intervention on the part of the state in the market. Allegations have it that there is a nexus between a section of unscrupulous traders and high-ups in the commerce ministry which may have held implementation of that pledge back.
The government immediately needs to take effective steps to bring essentials’ prices at least within the reach of the poor and marginalised section coming out of its rhetoric.
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