Per capita income increase and consumers’ plight
In the light of rising commodity prices, consumers' life is inevitable. The rise in fuel prices since the start of the Ukraine war has added a new dimension and rising transport and production costs have already created scopes for price increases in stages. There is no denying that our standard of living has improved and our per capita income has also increased a lot, but uncontrolled rise in commodity prices is not making consumers happy at all.
Consumers are indifferent to the market price, especially the low-income people, who end up buying the least amount of food to make a living. They no longer have the enough money to spend on health, medical care, education, etc. The long line of consumers in front of the government's TCB car tells how helpless they are to the price of goods!
The price of daily necessities has increased several times more than the rate at which per capita income has increased. The only reason is that the authorities have no effective control over the market and no market monitoring, supervision and remedial measures accordingly have been made at all.
Low-income, retired honest government employees, the elderly and marginalized people are among the hardest hit by rising commodity prices. Most seniors are in the most difficult situations. They neither die at home, nor die at the door. The condition of the employees who have spent their lives honestly is even more deplorable, because their savings in working life is the only source of pension or gratuity money.
In fact, the government is quite indifferent to the rise in commodity prices. Traders are syndicating and increasing the prices of essential commodities on various pretexts, causing misery to the common man. Once the price of a product goes up, it does not go down. Although various government agencies are working on this issue, it is not coming down under control as it is not playing an effective role.
There is an organization called Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), but their activities are not so visible. Although it was established to protect the rights of consumers, in reality the extent to which they are protecting the rights of consumers is a matter for the public. Their activities show a lot of people!
Economists consider inflation to be the biggest enemy of the economy. This is because inflation reduces people's purchasing power, increases the suffering of middle and lower income people and makes the living standards of consumers miserable.
Rising commodity prices have also outpaced inflation. But the recent rise in edible oil and gas prices has surpassed all previous records. The price of edible oil in the wholesale market has almost doubled per kg and the recent manipulation of soybean oil by traders has surpassed all previous records.
After the COVID-19 epidemic, the income of all people is already curtailed. Many have lost their jobs and cut their income. People with limited incomes are in a state of flux due to rising commodity prices. Farmers are also not getting fair price. The beneficiaries are the middlemen tout and the Syndicate clique. Their tyranny is so strong, they are hostage retailers and consumers in general. No matter what the government says they are controlling the market, in fact it seems that the syndicate is controlling the government!
In fact, the government has no control over commodity prices. Farmers do not get a fair price by producing other crops including onions, so they lose their production spirit.
At present, the prices of rice, oil, onions, fish, meat, vegetables, etc., are increasing. The traders make excuses one by one as the reason for the rise in prices of each product and the government agrees with them.
However, there are some products that do not have a shortage of supply, but the price goes up. Moreover, if you pay extra money, there is no product that is not available in the market and ordinary people are counting the cost. They are cutting their pockets everyday, but there is no one to watch, consumers are indifferent and extremely helpless.
Rising fuel prices have pushed up production costs, transportation, and medical and education costs. The prices of public and private services are also rising. Consumers' income is not increasing at the rate at which commodity prices are rising. The relationship of living with commodity prices is very close. How a family manages their daily lives depends on their income, needs and prices.
When the price of every essential product is at a tolerable level and within the purchasing power of the common people, they spend their lives in comfort.
On the other hand, when the prices of daily necessities become inconsistent with the financial well-being of the common man, unrest begins in the poorest and most impoverished families.
Therefore, due to the rise in commodity prices, on the one hand, the black shadow of misery descends on consumer life. On the other hand, the chaotic situation prevails in the country due to profiteers and black marketeers.
Our per capita income was about US$ 129 in 1972, which now stands at US$ 2,824, up from US$ 2,591 last year. In other words, in the 50 years of independence, the per capita income of the people of the country has increased almost 22 times.
Interestingly, higher per capita income does not mean that the people of any country are very good. Many of us think that the increase in per capita income means that the country has improved a lot or the quality of life of the people has changed significantly.
Increasing per capita income is a fundamental basis for improving the quality of life of the people. Bangladesh is one of the countries in the world in increasing the number of the richest people.
The country has seen a lot of visible improvements in the last few years and has surpassed many countries in terms of growth. But the benefits of this per capita income growth and development did not reach the larger population, got a few segment of people!
For this reason, the calculation of per capita income has always been a hoax. Many build a mountain of money through corruption. Their average wealth is calculated to be higher. Hawkers, rickshaw pullers, garment workers, the unemployed are all shown in the middle class.
The government must establish full control over the market. The people of the country must also strive so that the unscrupulous trader does not increase the price of the goods at will.
Md Zillur Rahaman, Banker and Columnist