The government should take befitting steps instead of pretentious ones to stabilise the commodity market as the prices of daily essentials could not be controlled without subduing the syndicates, said civil society members at a roundtable on Tuesday.
Citizen's for Good Governance-Shujan, also known as Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik, organised the roundtable titled "Rising Commodity Prices, People's Suffering and Necessary Actions" at the National Press Club.
At the discussion, speakers pointed out the issues in the commodity market and recommended necessary steps to the authorities concerned of the government.
According to the speakers, prices of daily commodities have been rising for six consecutive months. Initially, the excuse for the hikes was placed on the international market and now there is another excuse- the war between Russia and Ukraine.
Recently, edible oil importers and refiners have proposed an increase in oil prices. And since then, edible oil has disappeared from the market. When the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection launched an inspection at the mill and importer levels, edible oils became visible again.
According to consumer and market experts, even though the market supervision by the government has been strengthened including fixing of commodity prices, withdrawal of VAT and keeping the rate of Letter of Credit or LC (Bond) margin on imports of daily commodities to a minimum, consumers are not reaping the benefits, Shujan mentioned in a written statement.
Hoarders and syndicates are still active in the market to make extra profits. Earlier, unscrupulous traders pocketed huge sums of money in a short time by disturbing the onion and rice markets. Now they are doing it with edible oils, Shujan said.
Although the production of onion and rice in the country is satisfactory, the syndicate members are making huge profits with these items. Meanwhile, ordinary consumers are paying the price for the government's inaction to stop such misdeeds, the statement said.
Speakers blamed inadequate market supervision for the skyrocketing prices of daily commodities.
Market monitoring does not mean conducting mobile court drives and slapping fines. Such monitoring does not affect a free market economy. Monitoring is overseeing the demand and supply of products, something the government is not doing it properly, Shujan said.
To keep the prices of essential commodities within the reach of the general consumer, it is necessary to ensure the supply of stocked products through public-private initiatives. Market-related government agencies, including Consumer Rights Protection, need to be made more effective and coordinated.
"We are on the development highway and progress is underway at rocket speed, but the common men are being oppressed. The number of millionaires is increasing while at the same time some 7-8 crore people have fallen below the poverty line," Shujan Secretary Badiul Alam Majumder said, adding that the government's responsibility towards the people has declined.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), presented the keynote address at the meeting presided by Camelia Chowdhury, president of Shujan's Dhaka metropolitan committee.
Mahmudur Rahman Manna, convener of the Nagorik Oikko, and Abdullah Al Kafi Ratan, a presidium member of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) also took part in the discussion.