Difficulties faced by the commoners and prices of daily essentials are always interrelated. As prices of essential items are soaring without any respite, life of the common man has become more difficult of late. It the people from the lower rung of the social ladder, who have been the worst sufferers of the price-hike of daily necessaries.
On January 8, 2020, the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) said the cost of living in the country has increased by 6.5 per cent due to price-rise of essentials. Of the commodities, onion price recorded the highest increase to Tk. 250 a kilogram in September of 2019. Among others the prices of daily necessities such as rice, flour, egg, ginger, garlic, cardamom, coriander, vegetables, edible oil, clothes and utility services rose in 2019. The trend of rising prices of essentials is still on.
While prices of some life-saving medicines increased, the protein items like chicken, egg, beef, mutton, fish and powder milk and cow's milk became dearer in the year. This evidently indicates that there was no effective control of and regulation by the relevant authorities on the market. The authorities' failure to rein in anarchic onion market for quite some time set a bad example that encouraged other businesses to irrationally raise the prices of the essential commodities they are trading.
In any case, the brunt of spiralling prices of essentials and inflated cost of living has been borne by millions in the fixed income group. In the truest sense of the term, the poor and the middle and lower middle-class people, want the prices to come down so that they can live a tolerable life, if not a better one. Unfortunately, continuing high prices dash their hopes.
The consumers with fixed income cannot keep pace with the price-hike as their income has not increased in proportion to their required expenses. The gap between income and expenditures has widened, so much so that they are undone. In consequence, at the risk of malnutrition of the family members many of the fixed-income-bracket people have to ration or cut quantity of their foodstuff. The fact is that though they had to spend at least 6.5 per cent higher amount on average for commodities, most of the common people's earning did not increase in 2019. Like adding fuel to fire, moreover, the soaring prices of essentials including vegetables have added to the financial constraints of the common consumers.
Moreover, the fresh move to raise electricity tariff is more worrying for the consumers. Such a move will push the already rising commodity prices further up to compound the sufferings of common people. When consumers are paying exorbitant prices for essentials, the move to raise power tariff is unacceptable to them.
On the contrary, the authorities have to effectively regulate the market keeping prices stabile. It is essential to stop artificial price hike by a section of traders. It is hoped that this can be done by introducing strong market monitoring. The aim of the measures has to be such that the common people can get rid of additional burden in buying the essential commodities.
Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics and
Vice Principal at Cumilla Women's Government College, Cumilla.