The cost of living in the capital hit a four-year high in 2017 due to spiralling prices of rice, vegetables, electricity, gas and other services as well as rising house rent, the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) said yesterday.
The city residents saw their living costs go up by 8.44 percent last year compared to that in the previous year, it said.
The voluntary organisation urged the government to form a separate wing or division under the Prime Minister's Office or the commerce ministry to keep prices of 12-15 essentials within the reach of the low-income and poor families.
“Most of the people were deprived of the fruits of the country's overall development because of the price hike of essentials, including rice, in 2017. Many people are suffering due to high food prices. Savings of many families are falling. An urgent remedy is necessary,” CAB President Ghulam Rahman said while presenting the CAB report on living cost in 2017 at the Dhaka Reporters Unity.
Living cost of the two crore city dwellers hit the highest since 2014 when it rose by 6.82 percent, according to the CAB.
The CAB report is based on price data on 114 food items and 22 everyday products collected from 15 markets in the capital. It also took into account the prices of 14 services, including gas, electricity and water.
The report, however, did not include the education and health expenses of the city residents.
Earlier in 2013, the cost of living had shot up by 11 percent compared to that in the previous year because of increase in the prices of fish, spices, rice, pulses, onion, electricity and petroleum, said the CAB.
Prof Shamsul Alam, energy adviser to the CAB, said around 12 crore of the country's 16 crore people earn $2 a day, and price hike of essentials seriously affected the lives of this section of the population who represents the low-income and poor people.
“The soaring cost shows lack of competition in the market, high profit motive, corruption and extortion in almost every stage of the supply chain of commodities,” he said at the press conference.
The CAB said the average price of rice soared by 20.4 percent in 2017 -- the highest since 2011 -- from that a year ago. And prices of coarse rice rose higher than that of fine rice.
Architect and CAB's complaint cell convener Mubasshar Hussain said the increase in prices of coarse rice has hit the poor and low-income people hard.
The CAB noted that rice millers and big traders hiked prices of the staple, cashing in on flood-induced losses of crops and depleting stockpile at public granaries last year.
They would not have got the scope for increasing prices by creating an artificial supply shortage if the government had built adequate stocks of rice, said the consumer rights organisation.
Onion saw the highest price hike last year, followed by other vegetables, household gas, rice, liquid milk and beef. Besides, house rent soared by 8.14 percent and electricity by 6.44 percent in 2017 from that a year ago.
However, prices of some items such as lentil, egg and potato fell last year compared to that in the previous year.
Referring to the hike of gas and electricity prices by the government, it said, “The CAB thinks the decision to increase prices was not logical and justified.”
Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission increased the electricity price in November, and the new rate became effective from December last year.
On transport, the CAB said there was no mentionable improvement in public transport last year.
It also mentioned that healthcare facilities have increased but questions still remain about the quality and costs of healthcare.
The report also touched on the issue of repeated leaks of question papers of various examinations last year.
The CAB noted that Bangladesh's economy is growing more than 7 percent annually and per capita income has exceeded $1,600.
The number of poor people has also declined remarkably. Yet, around two crore people are still suffering from poverty, said the non-profit organisation.
“There is no alternative to keeping the prices of essentials within the reach of the poor,” added the CAB president.