The lives of people all around the world are getting harder due to food scarcity and overprice of few critical food products. The development is being credited to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war. Bangladeshi citizens are also going through severe inflation in terms of the price of food products especially oil. Though huge amount of soybean oil was imported during the last few months, there was no oil in the market for a while. The shopkeepers both at retail and wholesale level were storing soybean oil for higher profits in the future. The mill owners actually started the trend. This shows that, due to the ongoing war, the food oil will face further scarcity in the future. As we are on the verge of budget 2022-23, it is important that this upcoming threat is well considered.
The current Russia-Ukraine war could have ended easily. But the war has turned into the war between Russia and the West. The Western countries are supporting Ukraine with arms and ammunition. This is another bi-polar war, which is being fought at the neighbourhood of Russia. Both Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden are continuing this for their own interest of increasing global power. Right now, considering all developments, this war is not going to end anytime soon.
Due to the interference of the West, Russia is being cornered in a war, which could have been a peaceful political interference or regime change. Though we are concerned about the regime change by a foreign influence in Ukraine as that hurts the concept of sovereignty, this has happened many times in Asia, Africa and especially Middle East, mostly by staged by the West. For example, regime changes were orchestrated by both the US and Russia on different occasions in Afghanistan. Ukraine could have been the same as logically, Russia could not allow strengthening of military power of its enemies in its own backyard. But to corner Russia, the West has been sponsoring this war at the expense of not only the Ukrainian people but also the global citizens.
So, the global leaders should opt for a peaceful solution soon so that everyone can come out as winners. In today’s reality, there is no need for military alliance like; NATO and war over expansion of military alliance at enemy’s backyard is absurd as we have many other issues like; global warming and climate change, which requires special focus to secure the future of the whole world.
During the last two and half years, the global economy was facing a terrible enemy named COVID-19 pandemic. As the world was just recovering from the dark bites of that pandemic, this war started. It was not wise for either Putin or Zelenskyy to engage in this war in military form thinking of the world. The West should not have got involved or escalated this war for the sake of the welfare of the global people. If COVID-19 pandemic hit hard again along with this war, we will enter into at least a deep economic depression.
Russia and Ukraine were major exporters of wheat, corn, barley, rye, sunflower seeds and more. The two countries supplied about 30 percent of the global wheat trade. Different countries like; India may cut wheat export in the upcoming days. In terms of soybean oil supply Russia and Ukraine ranks 1 and 2 respectively and their export is completely off right now. Other soybean and sunflower oil producing countries like Indonesia and Argentina is also closing their food grade oil export right now sensing the global crisis. Sweden and Finland is opting to become members of NATO, which will further make Russia desperate to win in Ukraine. Hence, a food crisis is inevitable if this war continues.
Being rich and powerful, the Western countries are thinking that, they will be able to tackle the humanitarian crisis in their own countries. But they are wrong. Their people, who are used to secure and luxury lifestyle, will also feel the heat. From the last few years’ observations, the nature will bring them additional chaos. When their people will face challenges, their leadership will face tremendous pressure. Moreover, this time it is not a Middle Eastern country, where you are sponsoring a war and cannot use emotions like; terrorism.
Bangladesh needs to be very careful about the upcoming months, especially when we are going to have our next general elections in the next year. Along with the global challenges, the political field will be very hot. Hence, the government needs to take strategic and people-oriented steps. Whenever, we are hearing about the crisis of food products, especially oil, onion etc., the government leaders tend to blow away that information saying that everything is available in plenty and nothing will happen to Bangladesh.
Right now, we are finding huge illegal storage of soybean oil by the sellers but it is due to the prediction that, in the upcoming months, soybean oil will not be available in the market and they will sell these in higher price at that time. While the law enforcers are acting hard to bring those soybean oil to the market, people should be made aware of the future situation so that they can remain prepared as well as alternatives can be traced out.
Bangladesh might experience decline in remittance and RMG export earnings after few months as the Western countries will face economic challenges soon. Though COVID-19 pandemic did not influence our foreign earnings much, this might not sustain in the upcoming months. We might face challenges in terms of food and earnings. It will especially impact the middle-income group of the country. We are at the verge of receiving a new budget for the fiscal year 2022-23. The government must keep in mind the threats from the ongoing war and its impacts while formulating this budget. With heavy real inflation, burdening the people with taxes should not be the option. Rather focusing on higher production of food products, securing internal trade, emphasizing on export of non-trading items should be prioritized.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has advised the citizens to cultivate every piece of available land on multiple occasions. We have no alternative other than that to secure our future. We must produce our own food and find the alternatives inside the border for the next 5-10 years. The budget should inspire the production of all sorts of food products. Moreover, we must put extra focus on producing soybean oil, mustard oil and sunflower oil. Production of these types of oil from local seeds must be increased and the budget should provide stimulus to the farmers producing the seeds.
The upcoming budget must specifically focus on reducing the burden of the people and reducing national expenditure. In the current context, the government should not adopt any more mega projects. Completion of the current projects should be enough for a while as feeding the people is coming out as a challenge. If we make a wrong budget and put burden on the middle and lower-income group, we might find protests like Sri Lanka in the near future while the wrong leadership, terrorism, fundamentalism may grasp our beloved country taking the scope.
A good and farsighted budget, considering all the future challenges, can make us overcome all threats and can also lead us to a prosperous future. But we often find insensitive and sightless budgets, despite our capable leadership. The budget for FY 2022-23 will be a historic one from different perspectives and can even mark the future of Bangladesh. Hence, we hope, this upcoming budget will completely focus on the survival and comfort of the people as if people survive, the nation will survive.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela