Incomes of 77pc people fall
Incomes of some 77 per cent of people in Bangladesh have declined in the throes of the Covid-19 fallouts over the last one and a half years, said Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) yesterday.
Expenditure increased by 6.31 per cent across the country for different reasons, said the CAB in its district and upazila level representatives' conference held virtually.
Prices of basic commodities and cost of some public services have soared in spite of some initiatives the government took up in response, said CAB Chairperson Ghulam Rahman.
For instance, water prices and public transport fares were not set reasonably, he said.
The Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority last month hiked the price of water by 5 per cent irrespective of whether it was used in residential areas or for commercial purposes, said Rahman.
Similarly, the government in March this year hiked bus fares by some 60 per cent, he said.
The bus operators were instructed to limit use of passenger carrying capacity to 50 per cent, which means one passenger could not sit right next to another, to maintain social distancing.
However, very few bus operators in Dhaka have been complying although passengers are being charged the new rate, he said.
As a result, the much required social distancing is not being maintained while passengers, in this time of crisis, are having to shell out extra, said Rahman.
Although the government has formulated good laws to curb the anomalies, those are not being properly enforced, he said.
The CAB chairperson called for more independence of some public organisations such that they can deliver better services to people.
These include the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution, Directorate General of Drug Administration, Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission, Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, and Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection.
Rahman also said a duality prevailed for the fact that incomes had decreased during this time of Covid-19, but per capita income had increased to $2,227.
This means incomes of only a handful of people had increased, he added.
The government should take up different initiatives so that the businesses can run well and income of the masses increases, which will reduce income inequality, he said.
The CAB chief also apprehends that the economy would not be able to make a rebound if 7 crore to 8 crore people were not inoculated as soon as possible.
Discrepancy is also evident in stimulus package disbursements, he said, adding that stimulus loans for large industrial units were quickly disbursed while that for cottage, micro, small and medium enterprises were yet to be wholly given out.
Rahman also sought the creation of two divisions, one focusing consumers and the other business affairs, under the commerce ministry.
He also demanded a separate consumer affairs ministry to oversee prices, supply and production of 15 essential commodities so that those could be available to consumers at stable rates year round.
Mofizul Islam, chairperson of Bangladesh Competition Commission (BCC), said had there been proper competition in local markets, consumers could have bought the goods 23 per cent cheaper.
And the GDP would have grown by an additional 2 per cent to 3 per cent, he said.
Islam complained that the e-commerce entities have been carrying out trade between businesses and consumers and not among businesses.
As a result, some e-commerce entities have been engaging in anomalies, he said, adding that the BCC would try to bring such firms under its purview to streamline their operations.
Bablu Kumar Saha, director general of the consumer rights directorate, said they had resolved some 10,000 out of 13,000 complaints concerning online business till date.
He encouraged aggrieved customers to register complaints with them, explaining that they conducted 70 to 80 drives in markets every day to check anomalies so that consumers' rights were protected.
Only market monitoring and fining the errant are not enough, said Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, adding that measures should be in place so that consumers do not fall into the traps of dishonest businesspeople in the first place.