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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Rein in unjustified price hike

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That the consumers have to spend extra pennies for certain fast moving commodities during a major festival like the Ramadan has depressingly become a common sight in the country.

This time around as well, when the holy month of Ramadan is round the corner, there is no exception to this common sight and the people have already started feeling the heat of the month as prices of certain food items that remain on high demand during Ramadan have soared up significantly.

 Prices of onion, garlic, sugar, different varieties of pulses, some vegetable items, fish and meats, etcetera have risen up by 10 to 100 per cent in less than two weeks for no reason at all.

 Data from relevant government authorities confirm that there is no shortage in supply of these items and international market is also stable. Hence, despite being well aware of the situation why the responsible authorities, including the law enforcing agencies, are not taking action against the unscrupulous traders is not understandable to the common citizens.

We know the number of businessmen who play the instrumental role in pushing up the prices is not that many. The whole import market is oligopolistic in nature, where only a few business groups do the whole of the country's imports and they are the ones who control the prices of everyday essentials at their will.

Majority of the other traders, including the retailers, in spite of being honest have nothing to do but to sell the products at unjustifiably high price. We do not believe that these vested quarters have become more powerful than the government itself and that for this reason the government is failing to restrain them.

It is also not expected that government will monitor the market only during Ramadan. We think either the government authorities are not carrying out their mandated duties properly or there is direct collusion of some corrupt government officials with the dishonest traders in the arbitrary price hike of commodities.

 The weakness and inefficiency of the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) in curbing unwanted price manipulation through timely intervention is a matter of serious disgruntlement. 
 
We have time and again called for taking necessary measures to strengthen the TCB equipping it with necessary efficient manpower and jurisdiction. We make the same call again.

 We feel monitoring of the market must be intensified without making further delay and stern action must be taken against the guilty ones. And for a sustainable solution to this problem of price manipulation by a few people or groups, measures must be taken to break the oligopoly in trade and commerce and create a more competitive market.

Measures must be taken to protect consumer rights. The need for emergence of strong consumer rights groups, which will act as pressure groups against any unjustified price hike or any other violation of consumers' rights, cannot be overlooked either.

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