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Price parity and cost factors
M M Haque from Jeddah, K.S.A.

          GOING on a vacation means buying variety of items for relatives -- gold, electronics, garments, toys even school items. For wife, children, and myself, I will buy at home, tailoring a suit, trousers, buying few shirts, clothes, considering the price and indigenous test and style.
Life may be difficult but cheap, may be inconvenient but peaceful that is the general consideration. Heat and humidity, no problem, we will rent air conditioner. Metered taxi, three-wheeler, no problem for transport, off we went.
Well, we found almost everything but not exactly the way we expected. Price parity, cost of goods and services, no one really knows what rationale it follows. For korola, begoon, potol, farmers in Dinajpur, Bogra or Savar receive only 4.0 or 5.0 taka for a kilo, sold in Kochukhet, Mohammadpur at 12 to 16 taka. A fish in Dhaka and at its production place bears a huge price difference. Tomatoes in Chapai or potol in Jamalganj have limited buyers. Banana stacked up on the roadside. The livelihood of around a 100 million people evolves around agriculture that does not have a stock (commodity) exchange, not yet a structured wholesale market. Investing in a marketing network is even not considered as a dynamic business. Or it can be said that the staple food business for such a population is done not with a balance-sheet but under the middlemen's seasonal earnings.
Quality of sweets, food, you can guess, what even you thought as good, couldn't believe your eyes and ears, thanks to magistrate, (Rokonoddawla). Street food in Male, Jakarta or Bangkok is more healthy and cheaper.
Foreign franchise food is sold in Gulshan and Jeddah at the same price (in conversion). Bangladeshis who are working in Jeddah are buying land, maintaining family back home. I was told, the waiters are mostly university students 'give them more tips'. In Jeddah the cleaners in a pizza outlet are given accommodation, food, medical and ticket back home. Cheese, mushrooms all are also imported. So, what rationale is there in the costing of food in the posh areas in this city?
Thousands of village women weaving dress materials, putting designs or carving handicraft, barely making a square meal, go beyond the average middle class buying capacity.
In Jeddah one can have a meal as cheap as 2.0 riyal with a drink at 3.0 riyal. Deep-fried half of a chicken (400gm) with potato chips, 2/3 buns and garlic paste or even a month old chicken's Bar-B-Q with bread, etc costs only 10 riyal. And this price tag continuing for last 20 years though the hygiene and serving factors has improved drastically over the years. Even in Kolkata it is said by visitors that in a restaurant 10 to 15 taka (rupees) meal is available. A city of 10 million people mostly struggling to survive cannot have a full meal with a whole day's wage. 15 Rupees, 10 Saudi Riyal, 5 US dollar or 4 euros, the minimum hourly pay equates a reasonable meal in those countries and can be eaten by people from any strata of society (test and hygienic factor).
Thirty million tonnes of rice and wheat are transacted every year as a main daily intake. Thousands of tonnes of green vegetable are traded everyday in Dhaka city alone, think of cooking oil, onion, garlic, lentils, turmeric, ginger, for which no authentic statistics are available. Seeds of jute, rice, potato, and onion are said to be imported in billions of taka every year. It is not only that billions of taka investment is lost, it could also have controlled many erratic elements (cost factor) and built the power to offer a price with a rational.
Industrial goods provide more a dismal price situation. I checked the price of shoes in the big company's showrooms, couldn't buy any. At 20 to 30 per cent less of the tagged price, I could buy Italian, Spanish, Turkish or Brazilian shoes that are more comfortable and fashionable.
Leather is known to be in abundance and labour in world economy, the cheapest. So what is the input that is adding up to this magnitude of selling price? Egyptian stylish shoes sold at the half of that price. Why is the price close to the good Italian or British shoes when quality and style is far inferior, well, at least what I have seen in their local showrooms?
Bought a cotton shirt from a famous local brand showroom with a price of French, British or Turkish made in Jeddah. After second washing feel like not to wear in the office. T-shirts bought in low price, now I cannot wear outside home.
A hand made pottery in Aziz Super market, a four-square feet watercolour pictorial in a photo shop in Uttara, asking price and bombarding cultural language will make you ashamed of yourself. 500 taka for a pottery or 6000 for that simple commercial painting!
It is difficult for me to pay 500 taka for a fish, my mindset goes with about only 10, 20, 30,40 or 50 in grocery items. Paid 7000 taka for finger food in a new franchise in Gulshan. It was a shock to me. In the same restaurant in Jeddah along with friend's family I would have counted only a couple of hundred, in Europe would be the same as well. It is considered as fast food or economy food and for the middle class.
A doctor's fee, private tutorial teachers' class-hour charge with their unbearable arrogance in the face of your helpless condition makes you believe that this is the norm.
Bought few books from the famous publisher in Motijheel and in Aziz Supermarket at unbelievable price. Compare with books from neighbouring country, our books are at higher range. The local economics books have a higher price, which is more by 40 to 60 per cent. If argued on quality or intellectual value, a Nobel Prize winning book costs me much less than those of same volume.
What makes this world of difference in pricing or the price of the goods in a country where general earnings are very poor or much lower? The marketing degree from national universities or local cost accountant professional degree have no recognition beyond the boundary where with a razor thin margin billions of dollar worth of profit is made by the owner who is the second richest person in the world.
World's biggest NGO put up its university within the walking distance of the neo-rich and made the entry price so high that even the middle class cannot reach.
World acclaimed NGO's fabric, design, quality nothing has improved over the last decade, but researched hard to release mutual fund in high market.
We say politics is not up to the expectation because today it is dominated by businessmen. Considering the selling price and marketing structures, it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that businesses are dominated by 'unscrupulous business people'.
Primarily cost build-up or irrationality is due to inadequate funding (under finance), wastage, unstructured planning (or no planning) mismanagement and short-term profiteering motives. Part of the big difference between the wholesale and retail prices is also contributed by the cost of extortion or sidekick.
Adequate investment and structured operations can only safeguard the interests of buyers and sellers and offer a competitive price for raw materials or end products.


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