‘No factory has to shut’
Consumer goods importers and processors yesterday told the prime minister how the deepening energy and power crises were affecting their industries.
They also spoke about issues they were facing while trying to open letters of credit to import goods.
In response, Sheikh Hasina assured them of taking measures so that no factory has to face closure. She also promised to improve gas and electricity supplies within a short period, said sources who attended the meeting.
Hasina, during the meeting at the Gono Bhaban with importers and exporters, asked the businesspeople to ensure that food items are available to consumers at a fair price and urged them not to make excessive profits.
Prices of edible oil and sugar were elaborately discussed and the businesspeople said they were facing difficulties in refining sugar due to gas shortage and the Tk 29 per kg duty on the import of unrefined sugar was hurting them, said meeting sources.
The PM instantly asked her principal secretary to sit with the National Board of Revenue to settle the issue.
The businesspeople said some private banks were reluctant to open letters of credit citing dollar crisis.
The premier assured them that she would sit with finance ministry high-ups and the Bangladesh Bank governor to solve the problem soon.
She also asked the businesspeople to import essential commodities from countries that produce them so that the cost is low.
The PM also directed Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque to make sure that the import of agricultural inputs is not hampered and every measure is taken to boost food production to the highest level, the sources said.
Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, told The Daily Star that the prime minister asked them to maintain a stable supply of edible oil and sugar to the market.
He said the stock and supply of the two items were stable but the prices went up in the local market because of price hike in the international market.
Jashim also said they requested the prime minister to reduce the duty on the import of edible oil too.
Hasina, in her opening speech, called upon the businesspeople to place he country and the countrymen before profits.
"There's no Hawa Bhaban and the development wing at the PMO to share your profits with," she said, reports UNB.
She said during the last 14 years of Awami League rule, businesspeople ran their businesses and made profits without any hindrance. She said businesspeople are now free from the pain of Hawa Bhaban and development wing of the PMO.
"We had said that we will not allow our factories and industries to close, we have to continue … I ensured workers' wages, gave the stimulus packages," she said.
The PM said when the opposition is holding anti-government protests on the streets, some businesspeople have become anxious, but there are some others who have started looking for opportunities to make profits by "opening Hawa Bhaban again".
"Don't know why, suddenly they [businesspeople] have started singing the same tune … that there is a lack of this or that … this cannot be done or that cannot happen," said Hasina.
The PM said the government was importing LNG at higher prices and giving it to the businesspeople at a cheaper rate.
Agriculture Minister Abdur Razzaque, Awami League Secretary of Commerce and Industries Siddiqur Rahman, Director General (additional secretary) of the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection of the Ministry of Commerce AHM Shafiquzzaman, Bashundhara Group Chairman Ahmed Akbar Sobhan, TK Group Managing Director Mohammad Mustafa Haider, City Sugar Industries Ltd Adviser Amitava Chakraborty, City Edible Oil Ltd Director Biswajit Saha, S Alam Group Senior General Manager Kazi Salahuddin Ahammad, Deshbandhu Group Managing Director Golam Rahman, Meghna Group Managing Director Mostafa Kamal and ACI Ltd Managing Director Arif Dowla were present at the meeting.