The state has to play a role in increasing the purchasing power of consumers, and politics must be consumer friendly to ensure fair commodity prices, speakers said at an online seminar on Wednesday.
If it can be done, consumers will get commodities and services at fair prices and the syndicate of dishonest traders will break up as well, they added.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) and its online magazine, 'Bhoktakantha,' organised the seminar titled 'Consumer Rights in Development and Inequality,' on Wednesday.
CAB president Golam Rahman presided over the event where MM Akash, professor, Department of Economics at Dhaka University, presented the keynote paper.
In the keynote paper, MM Akash said, "Parliament, bureaucracy, and the judiciary --these three places-- must have impartiality and fairness. If unscrupulous people match up in these three places, consumers will not benefit."
Coarse rice, pulses, oil, salt, and fuel should be kept at tolerable prices. For this, 20% of the total supply of goods must be stored in government warehouses. If prices rise, the government can sell products in the open market, he said.
MM Akash, also a member of CAB's Power and Energy Research Commission, said consumers should be made aware of their rights by forming committees at the school level.
Ghulam Rahman said inequality has increased in Covid-19 times. Commodity prices are rising at a time when incomes of 80% of people have gone down.
However, the per capita income of Bangladesh has increased in this same time frame. This means that the wealth of the rich has increased. This income inequality is not conducive to the economy. If consumers do not have purchasing power, there will be no sustainable economy.
Rajshahi University professor Malay Kumar Bhowmik said if politics is to be consumer friendly, it must be organised to realize the rights of consumers. CAB needs to expand its social and organisational wings to this end.
Workers-Employees Unity Council leader, Rajekuzzaman Ratan, said sugar mills have closed and sugar prices are rising. With this, the government and the business community are jointly torturing consumers.
CAB's energy advisor, Prof Dr M Shamsul Alam, urged 16 crore consumers to be vocal so that the prices of products, including fuel, do not increase unreasonably.
Barrister Jyotirmoy Barua, a senior lawyer at the Bangladesh Supreme Court, said institutions that exist for ensuring consumer rights are not working that way. Consumers would benefit if they were more proactive.