THERE have been good sides to the economy's management in recent years and the same were discussed appreciatively in the national press. Stable and increasing foreign exchange reserve, better collection of revenues, rising investment rate, etc., were in focus as the features of a resurgent economy.
But common people understandably have not so much interest in these macro-economic indicators. For them, the main down-to-earth concern is the cost of essentials or daily consumables and the charges they have to pay for various regular and unavoidable services. In other words, the costs of living for common people is a very vital issue and the government's creditable activities in other spheres of the economy may be secondary to them, with costs of living seen as their comparatively higher concern.
The Consumer Association of Bangladesh (CAB) in its last stock taking assessed that costs of living increased by about 10.48 per. Food prices that have a way of creating the justification for increasing the prices of other commodities and services have been on the higher side all throughout 2005. Besides, several increases in the charges of power, gas and fuel oil also helped to fuel production costs which, in turn, led to higher costs of products and services. House rent, costs of education, medical charges, etc., also rose notably. The higher price trends and rising costs of living remain unabated.
The government does not have a direct role to play in regulating prices these days. Market economy principles are being followed and this is a pretext for the least governmental intervention to correct arbitrary price rises. But free market principles in many countries are not meant as freestyle operation of traders or sellers. The government in these countries take steps against undue profiteering. But this has not been the case in Bangladesh. The government is seen as rather helpless as traders increase prices without any justification for them. Apart from words of advice to traders, the government seems to have no strategy in place as prices of goods get most unreasonably increased by substantial margins and the high price lines are retained.
Thus, the government is expected to improve its regulatory functions with a view to keeping prices stable and bringing down the same to reasonable levels. The government would be facing many challenges in the remaining year of its tenure. But one very important measure of its success will be determined by its ability to control prices and charges so that the woes of the common man on these counts can subside.