The prices of essential commodities have increased at a time when the country’s economy was trying to bounce back from the fallout of the two-year Covid situation. People of all classes and professions have been hit by Covid but the marginal and lower-income people are the hardest hit. Many people lost their jobs while many saw slashed income. The sufferings must have exacerbated with the hike of essential commodities.
Citizen’s platform for SDGs organised a seminar on Thursday where the participants made some recommendations for sustainable development. The suggestions include stabilisation of the BDT exchange rate, reviewing interest rate, reducing duties, tariffs and taxes on essential commodities, slashing corporate tax, increasing the activities of TCB, restructuring the sectors that get subsidies, extending social safety net programmes, cutting expenditure in Annual Development Plan (ADP) and increasing allocations in education and health sectors. Dream of achieving sustainable development goals would remain unfulfilled if the living standard of marginal people is not improved.
It is true that we do not have any control over the international market, but why the prices of locally produced goods have skyrocketed remains a big question. Secondly, it is the duty of the government to make a comparison on the increase of prices in the international and local markets. Free market economy does not mean doing anything at will for profit. The government can control the prices in two ways. Firstly, they can monitor the market for any possible manipulation. Secondly, the authorities can increase the supply of goods through their own channels. The government has decided, though in late, to provide edible oil, sugar, lentils and chickpeas at affordable prices through TCB to 10 million families or 50 million people. Also, VAT has been withdrawn from edible oil, sugar and chickpeas. However, the question remains on the effectiveness of the decision.
While we hail the government decision, we also want to remind them that people’s experience of getting the financial stimulus package during the Covid period is not that rosy. Many poor people could not avail the incentive while many well-to-do people managed the package, thanks to their closeness with power. We wish such malpractice does not recur in this case. The government has to depend on local public representatives for lack of a proper database. Why did the government fail to create a database? The government could have taken the assistance of non-government organisations if they do not have the capacity to prepare a database. Seeing the mad rush of people around TCB trucks, we apprehend that the method of providing essentials through TCB is not likely to be successful. We have to find alternatives. The allegation of extortion and harassment on the roads made by the businessmen should be looked into. The extortionists must be dealt with strictly. It must be kept in mind that all the achievements of the government would go in vain if some opportunists use their power to deprive the needy people of their rights.