Keep costs of living under check

The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) on the first day of the New Year 2017 issued a report on the costs of living in the country. It highlighted that on average the costs of living in 2016 was 6.47 per cent higher than the previous year's. The CAB report also mentioned that common people's income did not rise notably last year. Furthermore, its report also contrasts sharply with the earlier aired information that inflation was at a record low level in 2016 compared to other recent years. Although the CAB report included the whole country, its weighted observations in respect of the capital city, Dhaka, are particularly significant. Dhaka is home to the largest number of people with an urban existence in the country. The greatest number of people in Dhaka live in rented dwellings; the rents of such homes went up by some 8.77 per cent on average last year putting pressure specially on fixed and limited earning groups of people.

Among utilities, the charge for WASA water for the city's residents increased by 22 per cent in two phases last year. WASA authorities could show no acceptable reason for such arbitrary charging of its customers. Pressure on the costs of living was also due to imposition of higher rate of VAT on some essential goods. Even the prices of all varieties of the main staple, rice, including coarse rice consumed by common people, increased 2.87 per cent on average in 2016 according to CAB.  The average price of all varieties of dal (pulse), soared 10 per cent on average according to the report. The report observed that moves are on to further raise the prices of power and gas.

But centered on such price hikes rise in the prices of goods and services may occur in 2017. Thus, it was advised in the report that government should drop any ill considered plan to further raise the price of power and gas. Similarly, it was advised that government should go for immediate substantial cuts in the prices of fuel oil for its beneficial effects on the costs of living. The per capita income in Bangladesh is now US$ 1,466. The amount is still modest by international standards. For this to be sustainable and lead steadily to improvement of people's standard of living, it is imperative to contain costs of living. Government's policy interventions, thus, need be geared to ensuring that upward pushes on the costs of living remain under check.

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