It is an irony for us, the people of Bangladesh that we have a commerce minister, Tipu Munshi, who did not even admit that commodity prices have gone well beyond the purchasing capacity of most people.
On the contrary, in a written reply to a question in the parliament, he claimed that due to the timely action of the government, it has been possible to keep the commodity prices stable.
Also paradoxically, in response to another question, he said that the price of daily goods dependent on imports has increased.
But the ground reality is while global prices for staple foodstuffs hit a two-year low in the last month, Bangladesh experienced a staggering 12.54 per cent food inflation in the period.
The food inflation which is the highest in 13 years — in FY2010-11 it reached 14.11 per cent — is significantly impacting the cost of living, particularly for the low-income groups.
According to the commerce minister, his ministry and the National Directorate of Consumer Rights Protection are conducting regular monitoring to ensure that unstable situations do not arise in the market.
His is no small list of performances.
They have removed import barriers, reduced the customs duty, normalised the gas and electricity supply, ensured speedy clearance at ports and supervision of import of goods as per LC (Letter of Credit) to keep uninterrupted supply in the market.
However, the ground reality is, due to high prices, most people have cut down their protein intake.
Poor people are not able to eat two squares of a meal every day.
This list of performances is of little importance to hungry stomachs that want to see a reduction in prices of foodstuffs so that they can buy and eat them and survive.
While from the government it is claimed that it is successful in containing food prices, the economists however say that the reasons for this persistently high inflation are internal factors which are largely man-made.
They point out that availability of cheap credit, market manipulation by vested interest groups, weak monitoring mechanisms, deteriorating macroeconomic fundamentals, and issues within the banking sector and money market are responsible for unusual hikes in commodity prices in the market.
Since this government does not have to depend on the people’s vote to remain in power, it can go away with its insincere remarks about the people’s plights.