A serious concern
IT IS disappointing that the government is yet to put a leash on the prices of essential commodities which have undergone a steep rise ever since it took office in January 2009. As New Age reported on Tuesday, quoting the department of agricultural marketing, a government watchdog to monitor the prices of 31 necessary commodities, although price of rice has fallen slightly thanks to the ongoing bumper boro crop, the average prices of 25 essential food items like flour, pulse, sugar, packed salt, etc have gone through another round of staggering rise in recent times. As the data released by the department on Sunday revealed, their prices have gone up by around 19 per cent in Dhaka, 16 per cent in Chittagong, 14 per cent in Khulna and 22 per cent in Rajshahi on an average, in the last year. As the Consumers Association of Bangladesh general secretary pointed out, the reality on the ground could be much worse as the data generally does not incorporate prices of all commodities. In his opinion, there has been almost a 100 per cent surge in the prices of vegetables in the last one year.
It need not be overemphasised that while the people in general have to suffer due to this unabated rise in commodity prices, the low-income groups and those belonging to fixed-income brackets, who, as different studies have found out, need to spend over half of their income on food, are the worst victim of such a situation. It may be worth noting that inflation in terms of non-food items has also displayed a sharp upward trend over the recent years.
What is, however, more worrisome is that the incumbents seem to be taking this situation almost for granted. We have so far commented in these columns on several occasions that wrong economic policies, pursued by them, coupled with their flawed understanding of the market mechanism, have led to all this. In addition, experts have also repeatedly suggested that the government needs to comply with its election pledges to intervene in the market, particularly through strengthening the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, and monitor the markets in a sustained manner to keep the price of essentials at least within the capacity of the fixed- and low-income people. Regrettably, the government has turned a deaf ear to all such suggestions thus far.
It is time that the government did something about the price spiral of essential commodities besides also trying to increase the purchasing capacity of the people at large.
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