Why currency values are so important to us ? It is important for the simple reason that millions and millions of people who are not wheeler-dealers and know no way of doubling, trebling or quadrupling their money resources overnight, for keeping their nose above the water. Small people put away 'something for the rainy day' as the adage goes out of a comfortable feeling that the unspent money would buy them good and services in the same or near the same measure-- when they had put aside the money-- at a future date. But when they find to their great dismay that theirs saved amounts will not even buy one tenth of the things ten years down the road compared to the past, not only this makes a mockery of the advice that people should save for their own good and that of the national good. It also involves great hardships on people..
People in the normal walks of life and they are the overwhelming majorities in all countries, are not adept at cunning, crimes and other qualities that would enable them to stay ahead of living costs no matter however high these may soar. They have no choice but to plan their future and the costs of living must fill the slots they have projected ; otherwise they must be worse off with their money resources falling far short in value than what would be required to maintain even their current lifestyle sometime in the future.
Salaried persons have their provident funds, terminal benefits, gratuities, saving deposits in banks and in other schemes. They make a sacrifice in their current consumption and keep aside the amounts out of a hope that the same will fulfill their requirements for ready cash to materialise plans such as building of a house, buying of an apartment, paying for a daughter's marriage or a son's higher education and so on. But when such a saver finds out how worthless his painstaking saving effort for a long period has been from the plummeting value of the currency, then his or her great bitterness and frustrations should be understandable to all those who had suffered in the same manner.
This writer knows of a gentleman who retired as a mid-ranking civil servant a year ago. He has a plot of land in Dhaka which was purchased many years ago when land prices were reasonable. He had planned for the day when he would build a house on it in the sunset years after his life. The various estimates of house building materials at the time when he started saving for the purpose gave him assurance that he would be in a position to build a house even without taking a loan from the House Building Finance Corporation (HBFC). But all his dreams have been shattered. After retirement and the settlement of his dues such as provident fund, gratuity, insurance payments, etc., he found out that what he possessed amounted to pittances in terms of today's requirements to either build a decent house or pay well for occasions and needs such as the wedding expenses of his grown up daughter and the private university fees of his only son.
Thus, this gentleman seems headed for a fate which is dismal to say the least. He was forced to change his status from one of having a middle class existence to a lower middle-class life . He had to leave his government quarters after retirement and found renting accommodation in a decent place or apartment in the city simply impossible. The several hundred thousand Taka he has as retirement benefits would last long many years ago when Taka's value was much higher and held steady. But this amount is not enough today to enable him to live in middle class comfort for even a year. So, he had to practice caution and count his money while renting a home in a semi-slum area of the city that led to his declassing of sorts.
The present rate of inflation in Bangladesh is declared to be nearly eight per cent, according to official sources but unofficially the rate is well above the double digits. Whether it is inflation in the economic sense or the outcome of unethical business practices, people's experience is that the value of their savings has been eroding continuously without a pause. The loss of Taka's value used to be not so quick in the past. The only difference now is that this loss has been accelerating in recent years that has created a spectre of a vast number of people getting declassed and actually going down in the class hierarchy.
One hears plenty of inspirational rhetorics from government leaders to the effect that people's income are rising and people in increasing number are escaping to an existence above the poverty line. But the realities tell a different story of middle class people turning into lower middle class ones and the latter in turn joining the ranks of the poor. The story is also one of the poor getting even poorer from living costs fast outpacing earnings and buying powers. The story is one of dramatically decreased purchasing power of non affluent sections of people in general from the lower purchasing power of the currency and the lowered value of their savings.
This process must stop to make any sense out of the talks of poverty reduction and to this end it is supremely important to stabilise the value of the Taka. In a country like the United Kingdom, for instance, the annual inflation rate seldom rises above one or two per cent and, if it does, it creates a great hue and cry for bringing the same down at the fastest. People there are to be found completely disagreeable to compromise their present and future living standards by passively allowing their living standards to decline from losses in the value of the Pound or in their savings.
No such concern is seen in Bangladesh to really fight inflation, price rise or irrationally higher living costs - whatever the names of the ills that lead to erosion in the valu e of the currency. But the greatest number of people in the country are paying through their nose for such unconcern.