After raising the fuel prices the government declared two days of weekly holiday on Fridays and Saturday so that the use of government and private vehicles are reduced. Water, electricity and other expenditures are trimmed.
Finance Minister M Saifur Rahman said the government was planning more austerity steps. These included reduced use of transports by government officials, lesser frequency of foreign trips etc.
These all sound fine. But this also reflects that Bangladesh today is in a deep crisis. It is clear that the oil-dependent economy is bracing itself for the worst due to the skyrocketing oil prices in the international market.
People are in deep agony because of the hike of the prices of diesel and kerosene. The price hike of diesel and kerosene will raise the cost of both irrigation and transport, leading to hike in prices of agricultural products and increase in transportation fares. We understand that diesel and kerosene account for over 90 percent of petroleum products consumed in the country and it is easy for the government to generate huge revenue by slightly hiking their price. But the government should remain also careful about the fate of the common people.
The austerity measures being planned by the government are laudable. Even if there is no crisis, the government transport costs should be lowered significantly.
The foreign trips must be reduced as it is planned. For a resource-starved country, it often becomes a matter of shame when a big delegation accompanies the Prime Minister during her visit abroad.
Austerity should not be only for the government officials. Ministers' visits outside the country also needed to be reviewed. The ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers in most cases use vehicles beyond their allotted number and time.
Even members of their families liberally use the government vehicles. This should be stopped at once in order to curb the misuse of fuel.