People in hard struggle as living costs up

Prices of different essential commodities, including rice, meat, electricity, house rent and transport fare, have increased over 60 per cent in last six years pushing the cost of living up in the country, particularly in Dhaka.

The price hike and rising living cost has forced a large percentage of the country’s low- and fixed-income families into hardship, reports the New Age.

fruits-and-vegetables1Economists talking to New Age gave mixed opinions about the impact of the price hike of essential commodities pointing out that combined income of the people had also increased over the period.

According to the data provided by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, prices of rice increased more than 60 per cent in last six years while the price of ‘atta’ increased by 45 per cent and red lentil by 18 per cent during the period.

The statistics shows the prices of beef increased by almost 60 per cent in last six years while fish prices increased by 42 per cent. Prices of most of the vegetables but potato doubled during the period.

The Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission has already increased retail power prices by 63.56 per cent, up from Tk 3.76 per unit to Tk 6.15 on an average, in seven phases since March 2010.

Over the period, house rent jumped about 80 per cent in the capital city. Last year, according to Consumers Association of Bangladesh, house rent increased 9.76 per cent due to non-enforcement of House Rent Control Act 1991.

The Bangladesh Railway increased passenger fares by 50 to 115 per cent from October in 2012.

Per litre diesel was sold at Tk 33 in June 2006 that rose to Tk 44 in January 2009 when Awami League assumed office for the second consecutive term. The price increased further and stood at Tk 68 since January 2013. The price of diesel thus rose exactly 50 per cent.

A report of CAB said the cost of living rose 6.82 per cent in 2014 from the previous year, mainly due to a hike in house rent, utility bills and prices of some essential food items.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, told New Age that the increasing prices of commodities would not affect the affordability of the people as the per capita income of the people also grew during the period.

He said considering the point-to-point inflation the non-food budget was till now higher.

Economist Anu Mohammad, however, said that purchasing capacity of all sections of people could not be judged by the per capita income.

‘It is true the real income of a certain quarter has increased unusually in last six years but a large segment of the population has been forced to increase their working hours or slashing their consumption bundle to adjust to the increasing commodity prices, he said.

‘I think the rate of increase in the real income of more than 50 per cent of the people who are engaged in informal sectors is insignificant and the reality is that people have been suffering for growing commodity prices,’ Anu said.

Per capita income almost doubled in six years to $1,190 at the end of 2013-14 which was $608 in 2007-08. Bangladesh’s annual per capita income rose to $1,044 in 2012-13 fiscal from $923 after change in the base year.

But rate of inequality remained almost static in Bangladesh, said the economist on the basis of available data.

A World Bank report titled ‘Addressing Inequality in South Asia’ said Bangladesh was third among the eight countries of the region in the inequality index.

Economist Abdul Bayes said price of beef soared in recent times because of short supply of cattle.

‘Despite increasing prices, fish remained somewhat affordable for common people as their real income also increased during the period,’ he added.

Talking to New Age, a number of people who live a hand-to-mouth existence and low-income servicemen said they could not increase their income to match the price spiral of essential commodities.

A government survey has revealed that at least 39.80 per cent of the households in the country still live in food insecurity. The survey also says members of most of those households often go without food or have to borrow to meet their want of food. The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics conducted the Welfare Monitoring Survey in March 2009.

Sabina Yeasmin, an operator of Bonni Apparels at Malibagh in the capital, said that her wages increased to Tk 7,000 from Tk 4,000 in last five years but expenditure continued increasing.

‘In 2010 I paid Tk 900 as house rent per month but now the rent for the same house has increased to Tk 2,500 per month,’ Sabina said.

She said that in the last five years the living cost increased almost four times as prices of all essential commodities went up.

It has become difficult to afford the expenditure despite an increase in wage by more than 70 per cent as the family is growing in size and new needs come up every day, according to Sabina.

– The New Age