The reason for the authorities to impose restrictions on foreign tour of government officials aimed at stopping spending dollars 'unnecessarily' is a matter of not just public curiosity. People feel the pinch with the low-income literally bleeding by the surge in dollar price and its consequential impact on the price-hike of food items.
The fallouts of Russia-Ukraine war around the world, following two and a half years of the pandemic, caused many to panic about their economic life. Have the effects of the two major disastrous events reached Bangladesh's sea, land and air ports?
Historically, the price-sensitive information travels faster in Bangladesh than elsewhere, offering windfall for some clever groups and biting the majority particularly the consumers.
The recent surge in prices of essential items including cooking oil has reportedly taken place as a result of the cartel and secret stockpiling and on the basis of assumption that the world is going to see a food crisis. Similar arguments may be applicable for massive depreciation of Taka against US dollars but apparently the Sri Lankan foreign exchange crisis has left psychological impacts on the thinking of the authorities concerned and market players.
In any case, it is not clear how they are observing the global and domestic situation and what kind of policy and other packages they would ready in honest consultation with the stakeholders.
In absence of open discussion on public policy and issues, consumers and businesses read and listen to partial reports and even social media speculations, rumours and gossips that make them only confused. People thus fear for their future.
A well-researched policy statement on the current state of price, supply situation, and the financial market by the finance minister could have presented a clearer picture for people to take their economic decisions confidently.
We are saying that we are in a far better position than Sri Lanka and our country is self-reliant on food. So, we need to genuinely assure ourselves that neither foreign currency nor food supply is going to arise as a crisis.
The puzzle that is not solved is: Prices of rice, onion and other items increase during the peak season or immediately after harvesting this year. And the US dollar has been at least Tk 8.0 costlier in the kerb market than the bank rate when the country's foreign exchange earning through exports, remittances and outsourced jobs has not nosedived in any way.
The commerce minister's confession that the key players of food market deviated from their commitment not to create any artificial crisis, reconfirms that price is a governance issue in this country. The restriction on spending dollars by officials indicates that there is enough scope for judicious use of public resources.
The authorities, however, might have had more classified information about the supply situation and the market trend that are not available to the public. In that case, it's easier for them to reign in the manipulative market forces and offer the people solutions, not problems.
The purchasing power of people and the sources of earning of the consumers, for example, are almost missing from the discussion on the market crisis. Unfortunately, when many people have lost their income and livelihoods during the pandemic, the price surge is suffocating them further.
An economically stronger army of the consumers could have not only supported the food producers and traders, they could have protected themselves from the tyranny of the market manipulators.
The food inflation reminds us of the need for attaining food security at home. The dollar price rise underlines the importance of keeping options for earning foreign currencies and exchange of goods and commodities internationally. Bankruptcy is not affordable to any nation.
A major task of the authorities in the coming months may be to make sure panic doesn't grip the traders and the consumers alike. Those who are bearers and sufferers of any crisis should be made part of the process to find solutions and they must be informed of their own duties.