Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Fixed earners fight a grim battle for survival

The rising cost of living caused by price hike of essential commodities and increase in house rent and transport fares pushed the back of the fixed earners and low income group to the wall as the country passed a difficult year on the economic front.
A number of people from low-income group said they found it increasingly difficult to depend on their fixed income to cope with the soaring household expenditures. Spiralling prices were forcing them to cut down on their food intake and other expenditures, the said.
According to available data, market monitoring reports of Trading Corporation of Bangladesh and study of Consumer Association of Bangladesh, prices of most essential commodities have increased by 40 to 90 per cent in last three years of the Awami League-led government.
The prices of coarse and medium grade rice remained stable throughout 2011 at a high rate of Tk 35. A CAB study said that the price of rice increased by 40 per cent in 2010.
The CAB in a recent survey found that house rent in the city increased by 15 per cent annually on an average. City people said that transport cost had doubled in last two years due to fuel oil price hike.
According Department of Agricultural Marketing, price of unpacked soya bean oil increased by 32.11 per cent, palm oil price by 9.14 per cent and packed soya bean oil by 19.31 over the year. Price of local gram increased by 39.18 per cent and that of imported gram by 46.74 per cent, Green chilli by 96.43, sugar by 3.74 and packed salt by 8.82 per cent last year.
The price of flour increased by 20 per cent, from Tk 40 per kg to Tk 48, per kg over the year, the TCB data showed.
Sugar price went up to Tk 80 per kg in the third quarter of 2011 but the price came down gradually to Tk 56 per kg last week. Price of green chilli shot up to Tk 150 per kg around two months back and then came down to Tk 60 per kg.
A CAB study for 2010 found that, on an average, the prices of major food items had increased by 20.30 per cent.
The prices of essential commodities  like sugar, soya bean oil, flour, gram, green chilli and salt increased last year because of supply shortage, price manipulation by syndicates and the middleman operation in the supply chain.
The retail price of soya bean oil increased by around Tk 30 per kg in last six months to stabilise around Tk 136 per kg in December despite continuous fall in the global price of the commodity – from $1,255.67 per tonne in May to $1,118.32 per tonne in November.
Control over commodity prices topped the Awami League’s list of five priorities. The AL’s electoral manifesto said, ‘Measures will be taken to ease the burden of price hike and keep prices within the purchasing power of the people.’
‘After giving top priority to the production of domestic commodities, arrangements would be made for timely imports to ensure food security,’ it added.
‘A multi-pronged drive will be launched to control prices and the market would be monitored. Hoarding and profiteering syndicates would be eliminated. Extortion would be stopped. An institution for commodity price control and consumer protection would be set up. Above all, price reduction and stability would be achieved by bringing about equilibrium between demand and supply of commodities,’ it said.
Finance minister AMA Muhith admitted that the government was facing uncertainties due to high inflation which stood at 11.58 per cent in November from 11.42 per cent in October.
Despite repeated assurances from both the government and traders, market did not stabilise.
After the government had introduced ‘Essential Commodities Marketing and Appointment of Distributorship Order, 2011’ in March, the refiners, amid runaway prices, on June 20 set the retail price of sugar at Tk 65 a kg and soya bean oil, other than packed oil, at Tk 109 per litre.
But the measure had no impact on the market. Consumers were forced to buy the edible oil at higher prices after its price was fixed. The retailers, distributors and refiners had engaged in a mutual blame game for price hike and supply crisis of the commodities.
Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director Mustafizur Rahman told New Age that the purchasing capacity of the low-income group had reduced due to the price spiral of essential commodities, which sometimes forced them to cut down on food intake as they spent 60 to 80 per cent of their income on food.
A government survey has revealed that at least 39.80 per cent of the households in the country still live in food insecurity. The survey also says members of most of these households often go without food or have to borrow to meet their want. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted the Welfare Monitoring Survey in March 2009, the report of which was released in May 2009.
The CAB in a survey report released in December 2010 said low-income families were forced to reduce food consumption by more than one-fifth.

Courtesy of New Age

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