alamgir ranch -->

The quiet demise of the middle class

The quiet demise of the  middle class

An economic purge of sorts is happening in full sight except by the powers that be. A scythe cutting mercilessly into the entrails of the middle class all over the world has implications that aren't immediately visible. Just because it can't be seen doesn't mean it isn't there. It is and will be. Middle class power transcends mere economics. Its impact spreads from literature and humanity to almost all spectrums of society to cut short of a thought provoking long list. Psychologists had warned and worried themselves stiff over the aftermath trails left by the Covid pandemic. For sure it was a narrow avenue of bodily stress on the mind. They have another stream of thought hurtling their way.

Medically challenged patients have little qualms about opening up on their mental state. Economically challenged have embarrassment in the way. Whenever shortages of means affect daily life, there are the usual consumption cutting options at hand. At the end of the tether, when options run out it's another matter altogether.

Suspicions are rife that events are caused to divert attention from painful realities. The colourful shenanigans of Boris Johnson waving away the atrocious party-gate saga, the timing of Vladimir Putin's adventure in Ukraine or the BJPs ethnic cleansing of Muslim artefacts are to highlight a few. What these hide is overwhelmed UK food banks, a cooling down of Russia's zealously guarded economy and a continuous slide to the negative scale of the Indian economy. The opposite is as bad. The anonymous person who forked out $ 140 million in a European auction for a vintage car, proceeds of which went to an undisclosed charity did as much as world leaders did. In our own patch of the woods the strange of repetitive apprehension of P K Halder from India,  one of the first rival student league face offs in Dhaka for many years and the siphoning off from markets of cash through abominable price hikes over and above market dictate as much. The harried consumer doesn't return anymore with gunny bags of essentials. The replacement is smaller polythene carriers, their transparency revealing pieces or grammes of product instead of kilograms. Those that chortled over the throngs at markets during the last Eid, hid behind the knowledge that people were dipping into some of their last resorts-savings certificates and fixed deposits. The trend had begun during the pandemic. That it continues is amply reflected in the downward slide of bond sales forcing the government to turn to banks to borrow.

Between chasing after the Trading Corporation's fair priced trucks, walking rather than rickshaw-tracking children to schools and coaching centres worry is written all over parents' faces. Prices continue in a momentum of their own to grow, ignoring the government's tax exemptions. Meat, poultry, fish, vegetables eggs, condiments the list goes on. It's no longer a factor that during post-harvest rice prices go down. Why the Food Minister's threat of raiding rice-mills was never acted upon is as baffling as the unwillingness of media refusing to nail him with questions.. A similar question had been asked but no action was forthcoming related to the obvious manipulations of the six edible oil producing companies who restricted supplies and also forced consumers to make it conditional to buy supplementary products even if edible oil was all they had on their lists.

The trade bodies have cut sorry figures. Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) that wrested stimulus from the government during the pandemic had assured the government of price stability. They and the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) are  now left red-faced going through the motions of confronting their members-in trying to argue that  wheat, flour and sugar prices are heading south without shortages or devilish price increases. Much before such token ventures, there had been abject surrender by both food and commerce ministers, openly declaring their inability to do anything. Few gave them much time and on the contrary braced for the spin-off effect on other products. In that there have been no disappointments.

Many moons ago, in these columns it had been argued that structured government shops properly stocked required to be opened across the country. Had they been in place the benefit of reduced international prices of commodities and the greenback could have been relayed back to the consumer. Instead there has been a generous dish-out of advice of the harmful affect of soybean oil, the meaty means of meat consumption three times a day and switching to nut-oil. Cash-strapped as it is, the government has made determined strides away from subsidies. The list of answers are dwindling at least for now. Utility costs and fuel prices are next in line -as if we needed another hammer in the works.


[email protected]


Share if you like