Bangladesh, along with the whole world, is facing the adverse economic consequences due to the COVID-19 pandemic for almost two years. It has affected almost every low and middle-income household in our country. During this period, not only the people have lost their income but also the price of commodity products, including food products, has increased peculiarly. Despite having supplies, the price of food products is out of control. The government has completely failed to contain this volatility and the people are suffering. None is taking the responsibility of people’s misery and no strong steps are visible to control the market. Unfortunately, if the people of the country cannot fulfil their basic needs, no good works of the government will bring results.
Yet again prices of edible oils rise to add to the adversity of the commoners already maltreated by general price rises on the volatile market. Branded soybean oil was sold at Tk.170-180 a litre in few groceries that had old bottles while in some shops loose soyabean retailed at Tk.184-185 a litre. Onion price increased further by Tk.10 per kg in a week. Finer and medium rice witnessed Tk.2.0-3.0 per kg further hike. Finer flour is sold at Tk.53-55 per kg, marking Tk.2.0 per kg hike. Loose sugar price also increased by Tk.2.0-3.0 per kg, selling at Tk.82-85 per kg.
The price of lentils, all kinds of meat, fish and almost every other food product has increased significantly during the last two years. Beef is selling at Tk.650 per kg. Broiler chicken price has also increased by around 25-30 per cent. Lentils are selling at 50 per cent high. Vegetables’ price is also out of control. The middle-income families are suffering the most along with the low-income group.
Price has gone up for almost everything during the last few years. For example; price of construction materials has gone up by at least 30 per cent in recent months. From steel to bitumen to imported stone to cement to brick, all have become very costly – up to 40% higher than the government rates. Prices of all construction inputs have shot up by at least 30%. Steel prices have now reached a whopping Tk.80,000-82,000 per ton from Tk.50,000-52,000 per ton in November last year. Cement prices have also gone up by at least Tk40 per 50kg bag. Besides, brick prices have increased to Tk.9,000 per 1,000 pieces from Tk.5,000. These prices are increasing further every month and will subsequently increase the cost of housing and even all development projects.
Though we record our national inflation rate between 5 to 6 per cent annually, the citizens are experiencing an actual inflation of 25-30 per cent with almost no increase in their income. Along with increased expenses, the burden of VAT, tax, municipality tax is getting heavier on the people. The government is putting special focus on increasing revenue. The citizens are getting harassed for submitting taxes, VAT and municipality taxes while their pockets are empty. Moreover, the government and the banks have decreased the benefits of savings to such an extent, that the people will have nothing at their hand to even respond to the emergencies. From every side, the people are being sucked off in our country today.
There is exception also as a group is getting richer everyday. Corruption and syndication has become the greatest source of income in today’s Bangladesh. A group of dishonest businessmen and middlemen are being benefitted by looting the people. But there is none to watch over them. Everyone in the administration is facilitating this group for their own selfish interest while the people are in immense pain. We must bend our knee to corruption and ill practices today and there is no way for an ordinary citizen to live an honourable life in today’s scenario.
Moreover, the irresponsible remarks of the government leaders continuously shoot at the heart of the people. A minister said, we are getting rich overnight while fathers, who lost their jobs during COVID-19 pandemic, are struggling everyday to feed their children. While we are facing price hike of all products for quite a long time, now the leaders are blaming Russia-Ukraine war for the price hike.
Commerce minister is making commitments everyday to control the price of commodity products but his words are never valued in market. The leaders should know that, people are not fool to endure these remarks. Truly, the GDP of the country is increasing every year. The per capita income is also increasing. But the ordinary people are not getting the benefits as equal distribution of gained wealth is completely missing and only a particular group is getting richer.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has completely focused on the development of Bangladesh during the last 13 years. We achieved many landmarks as a nation and Bangladesh gained an honourable position around the globe under her valorous leadership. She has taken so many drastic steps to change the fate of Bangladeshi people and that will remain remarkable in the history of this great nation. But unfortunately, her hands are failing her. While she is focused on country’s development, corruption and syndication is foiling her administration. Hence, we want to urge her to focus on reducing people’s misery.
Prime minister, we want to thank you for huge development of our country under your leadership. But men with hunger will have no value for those developments. They will not care about the punishment of war criminals or the killers of Bangabandhu. They will not value any achievements our country has made under your leadership. People want to fulfil their basic needs first and then they want to have a little savings for their children. Hence, we urge you to let them fulfil those needs first.
If people remain in pain, the anti-national groups will take that opportunity. They will take the benefit of people’s anger and agony. They may even easily come to power. They will also provide people immediate comfort by different means like; reducing the price of commodity products while stopping all development works. And then, they will destroy Bangladesh. We do not want that to happen.
There are many steps that the government can take to ease the life of the people. For example; right now, while we are trying to get out of the impact of COVID-19 pandemic, the only focus should be to reduce expenses for the people. There are three-tier VAT for soyabean oil – 15% at import, 15% at production and 5% (previously 15%) at retail. Right now, these taxes should be completely removed for a certain period of time until the global price comes down.
Market must be monitored and controlled as we cannot keep it to the open market strategy for some time. The government must deploy a heavy workforce to that purpose. We must not remove subsidy from the utilities right now at any cost. Moreover, the government must reduce and if possible, eliminate the cost of corruption and syndication for the people.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we are trying to receive your focus on people’s misery as we want your nationalistic and development-oriented leadership to continue in the upcoming years as we are approaching the 2023 general elections fast. The government leaders must be sensible to the people and their needs. They must take responsibility of people’s misery. People are ready to pay for the development but not for the corruption. Please bring back an easy life for the people to keep the ill forces away from the leadership of Bangladesh. Ultimately, people’s happiness and independence will be the victory of Bangladesh.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela