Long queues before OMS points

| Updated: October 23, 2022 21:30:18

Long queues before OMS points

The queues before open-market sale (OMS) trucks of the food directorate and sales centres of the Trading Corporation Bangladesh (TCB) are becoming longer by the day. This highlights the level of desperation and suffering amidst soaring prices of essential commodities.

Going by the ongoing developments surrounding the kitchen markets across the country, one has ample reasons to believe that consumers will have to bear with the high prices of commodities for many more days to come. It seems that the authorities concerned have decided to leave the market at the whims of the traders, millers and other private sector market operators during such a critical time. The agencies concerned under the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) have been making sporadic but futile exercises to rein in the prices of essentials. Ultimately, it is none but the traders who call the shot.

As far as the fixation of prices of some key daily essentials is concerned, Bangladesh has set a unique standard. Here, traders want the government to revise the prices of items of their choice upward and the government obliges. The MoC, in some cases, feigns to convince the traders and refiners to reconsider their proposed price tags, but finally accepts the prices dictated by the private sector market operators.

Because of the media outcry, in one or two instances, the traders themselves had approached the government to cut the prices of one or two commodities. The price cuts proposed by them, however, were far below the justified ones. What surprised the consumers had been the governmental actions. The officials concerned without asking any questions had put into effect the prices proposed by the traders/ millers. The government on its own recently revised downward sugar prices in the light of international prices of the commodity, but traders ignored that revised price tag and continued to sell the item at the previous or even higher rates.

The state of affairs with the prices of rice, a politically sensitive essential item, is rather puzzling. Despite the government's claim about bumper harvests during the immediate past Aman and Boro seasons, there has been no let-up in the rise in rice prices. Even a sizeable cut in tax rates could not stop the rise in the prices of the country's main staple. For some reasons, including procedural complexities, the import of rice by the private sector has been highly inadequate.

Amidst such a frustrating price situation, the government's efforts, though inadequate, to make available a few essential items to the poor and low-income people deserve appreciation. The TCB has been distributing four to five food items in cities and some major towns. Earlier, it used to sell those from open trucks. The truck sale was discontinued some months back. Goods are being distributed by dealers at various wards under the direct supervision of ward councillors. There are allegations of improper card distribution. Political considerations have come into play, ignoring the needs of genuine poor and low-income people. A private TV channel the other day showed a woman who claimed to have got four TCB cards instead of one per family. Another local-level woman leader also admitted the distribution of cards to some ruling party sympathisers with the consent of the ward councillors concerned.

Predictions are that the coming days will be even tougher as far as the price situation is concerned. So, to alleviate the suffering of the poor and low-income people, the government should prepare plans to expand the ongoing distribution of subsidised food items as far as possible. Besides, elimination of irregularities of all kinds must be ensured at any cost.

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