Incumbents need to be more responsive to people’s woes
THE government’s plan to enter into negotiations with public transport operators, for revision of transport fare, makes it clear that, whatever the margin is, the fare will be revised upward. The director of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority was quoted in a report front-paged in New Age on Sunday as saying that ‘a seven-member costing committee ‘would work out a new rate and the communications ministry would take the decision in this regard.’ The secretary general of the Bangladesh Road Transport Owners’ Association, who is also on the costing committee, said the government was likely to re-fix the fares this week for buses that run on diesel. Meanwhile, associations of transport owners and workers have urged the government raise the fares of buses and minibuses that operate in Dhaka and Chittagong. While government officials insist that the demand is not justified since most of these vehicles run on compressed natural gas, transport owners claim that, in the wake of back-to-back increases in the CNG price in May and September 2011, more than 50 per cent of the buses and minibuses running in Chittagong now use diesel, the price of which went up by Tk 7 per litre from midnight past Thursday. It may thus be assumed that the people will have to spend more on transport cost both on the long and short routes soon, that is, if they are not already doing so.
That essentially brings us back to the government’s claim that, despite the increase in fuel oil prices, inflation, which was 7.22 per cent in October 2012, would remain within its target of 7.5 per cent for the current fiscal year. Leading economists have already warned that the fuel price hike will wreak havoc on the economy. According to a report also front-paged in New Age on Sunday, the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a Dhaka-based research organisation, says the latest upward revision of fuel prices will increase non-food inflation and put tremendous pressure on the people, especially those in the fixed-income group. The centre also says it will have an adverse impact on all major economic areas, e.g. GDP growth, inflation, export, import, employment, and income of farmers and ordinary households. Similarly, many economists and research organisations, as quoted in a report front-paged in New Age on Saturday, expressed their concern that the latest price hike of major petroleum products, particularly kerosene and diesel, will fuel the already escalating inflation and push the cost of living further up. Still, the incumbents appear unperturbed and continue to come up with one tenuous justification after another for the hike in fuel oil prices.
Suffice it to say, in the four years of the AL-led government’s tenure, while the cost of living has steadily gone up, the real income of the majority of the people has remained largely static. It does not take one to be an economist to understand that the latest hike in fuel oil prices will only add more misery to the already-burdened multitude. The least the incumbents can do is dismiss the genuine concerns of the people as they apparently have thus far, and instead take some active measures to give some kind of cushion for them. Ensuring that the transport fare does not go up exorbitantly could be a good start.
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