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Dhaka Tribune

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Uncontrollable commodity prices choke the middle class

The government should bring the market fire under control first, in the interest of the ordinary people

Update : 13 Feb 2022, 12:07 PM

The government is also struggling to curb the price hike of essential commodities.

The prices of rice, pulses, cooking oil and sugar are higher than ever before.

The middle class is struggling to make ends meet.

In this situation, the lower class, as well as the middle class, are queuing in front of trucks owned by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), which are offering the same commodities at heavily-subsidized rates.

Lower-income and middle-class people have reached the pinnacle of helplessness as they cope with one trouble after another due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, rising prices of commodities have added to their woes. As a result, it has become difficult for the lower and middle class to meet their daily expenses.

The majority of ordinary people in the country, affected by the pandemic, are already in dire financial straits.

The official inflation rate is now 5.6%. But the reckless rise in prices of daily commodities is many times higher than this calculation of inflation.

According to the market price analysis conducted by TCB, compared to 2020, the price of rice has increased by 31%, flour 33%, soybean oil 45%, sugar 50% and lentils 30%.

The price of cooking gas has also gone up, along with prices of water and electricity.

On one hand, there is a definite price increase, and on the other, there remains uncertain livelihoods.

There are problems of not getting a regular salary and/or allowances due to job losses due to Covid-19, most of whom are from the middle class.

So what is the way to overcome the crisis?

It is important to take development activities and people-friendly measures for the overall protection and livelihood of people of different professions.

We are going through a difficult time in the battle of life. Many have become unemployed. This crisis is not only in Bangladesh but in the whole world. According to the latest report of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the crisis is expected to escalate.

It is by no means acceptable for the price of necessities to go beyond the purchasing power of the common man.

Today's public life is full of sorrow and wailing due to scarcity and poverty.

Prices of rice, pulses, fish, meat, oil, vegetables, fruits, sugar, salt, wheat, flour, bread, biscuits, etc have increased several times over.

As a result, ordinary people, especially hard working people, are on the losing end of the stick. There are allegations of unscrupulous traders who benefit from people's despair.

People crowd in front of the TCB truck to buy products at affordable prices. But is there peace?

As the crowds grow, people have to stand and wait for hours to buy the desired product at affordable prices.

TCB's trucks are often running out of stock at the moment as the demand is higher than its supply.

As a result, many are returning empty-handed.

Meanwhile, TCB dealers claimed that it was not possible to sell products to all those standing in line due to low supply.

Around 170 truckloads of TCB products are delivered to different places in Dhaka every day.

Only low-income people used to come in front of TCB trucks to buy daily necessities at low prices. Some of them were day laborers, some were rickshaws or car drivers, some were domestic workers.

But now the middle class is also crowding to buy products on that line.

Many people have lost their jobs in the country due to the pandemic. Many small businesses have been forced to close their businesses.

In this complex and unprecedented situation arising out of the pandemic, the middle-class people are in dire straits.

Remedies

It is very important to set up commodity price monitoring committees in all the markets to monitor the prices of essential commodities and to see if the products are being sold at fixed prices.

The government should play a significant role in ensuring that the common man of the country can live a better life by preventing the abnormal rise in prices of essential commodities.

Ordinary people did not get much of the benefit of government incentives during the pandemic.

When the common man struggles to calculate income and expenditure, it is as if the daily commodity market is on fire. Everything  becomes expensive.

The government should bring the market fire under control first, in the interest of the ordinary people.

The Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) needs to play a stronger role in protecting the rights of consumers.

Otherwise, the question of how much the CAB can save consumer rights may come up as a big question.

Do consumers see any similarity in the price list of government agencies with the price of the product that they see in the market? The answer to this question is negative.

The price lists of the TCB, Department of Agricultural Marketing and City Corporation are also different.

In the retail market, there is no similarity between one company and another in terms of the prices of daily commodities.

The same product is being sold in different markets at different prices.

As a result, confusion is being created about the prices of daily commodities that are being listed by government institutions.

As a result, government policymakers do not know the true value of the product.

On the other hand, the surveillance agencies are in trouble while conducting operations in the market.

Consumers are falling prey to fraud by falling into this precarious situation with market prices.

They see that there is no basis for the official price list of the product. The question is, why this inconsistency?

Why is there no coordination among government agencies?

The government agencies should prepare a price list keeping in line with the market every day.

They should also take care of the fact that daily commodities are being sold at different prices in each market of the capital.

The price list of the product should be consistent with the price list of the product in each market by the government agencies.

Supervision agencies need to be more proactive in this regard.

Action will have to be taken against the seller concerned if an extra price is collected from the government price list.

Hiren Pandit is a researcher and columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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