In the year recently ended, the cost of living in Bangladesh rose by 6.5 percent, with the prices of products and services going up by 6.08 percent.
The Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), in a report published on Tuesday, noted that the increase in the prices of goods and services has adversely affected the lives of people.
CAB President Ghulam Rahman presented the observations at a press conference while unveiling a report on last year's cost of living and consumer interest at the National Press Club.
The survey report has been prepared on the basis of information related to 114 food items, 22 essential commodities and 14 services. Information was gathered from 15 retail markets in the preparation of the report.
The organisation has focused on the cost of living in cities by taking into account expenses borne by a family on getting products and services. However, the costs incurred in education, medical services and communication have been kept out of this account.
According to the CAB report, the cost of living in 2019 increased by 6.5 percent, compared to 6 percent in 2018. Prices of products and services have gone up by 6.08 percent, up from 5.9 percent in the previous year.
The rising cost of food means mounting pressure on consumers
According to the CAB analysis, the price of a kilogram of onions was Tk20-25 in January-February 2019. In November, the price went up to Tk205. Except for onions, garlic and ginger, prices of most of the essentials remain tolerable and have shown a downward trend.
Though prices of rice rose slightly, it was yet tolerable. However, the cost of living went up due to a rise in the prices of a number of essential items, including flour, eggs and vegetables at the year end.
Though vegetable prices were normal at the beginning of the year, people had to pay more for them at the end of the year.
Over the year, vegetables prices rose by 8.13 percent on average. People had to spend more on fish, powdered milk andpasteurized milk.
Golam Rahman said in light of reports of achievements in food security, round the year there were detailed discussions on secure foods, particularly with issues of adulteration and pollution coming in.
In the view of the CAB president, the rise in prices of edible oil, sugar, onions, eggs and vegetables at the beginning of the year as an alarming sign. He said the essential products market has not yet come under the control of the government.
Rise in house rent at shanties
CAB President Ghulam Rahman said despite a slight drop in house rent of the upper class of people, the lower income and lower middle income groups had to spend more on house rent.
The CAB report has shown that the house rent of lower and lower middle income groups' rose 8.18 percent on average, cost increased 9.74 percent for shanties and 7.91 percent for mess accommodation.
Power, gas and fuel oil
Despite remarkable developments in the power sector, quick rentals, which run on increased cost, had overall electricity prices shoot upward. Since 2008, the authorities have raised bulk power prices seven times, retaining power prices nine times.
Another move is underway to raise power tariffs showing on the excuse that cost of generation and transmission are not met though the power distribution companies sell electricity to consumers at higher prices.
CAB noted a serious lack of surveillance by the government despite a rapid increase in the use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). Though a number of private companies have entered the business, consumers' rights protection could not be maintained due to a shortage of supply against demand.
In recent times, different companies have raised the price of every 12.5kg cylinder of gas from Tk170 to Tk200. Meanwhile, the price of gas cylinders at retailer lever is much higher than company-determined rates.
In such a situation, CAB has called for a fixing of higher prices and mentioning them on the cylinders.
The poor are still deprived of desired health services
Influential individuals in the government travel to India, Thailand, Singapore and the UK for medical treatment despite a massive expansion in the country's health services in the private sector. It is evidence that the quality of health services in the country has not reached the desired level. Despite such a drawback, though, costs of medical treatment keeps rising.
Besides, the government wastes a huge amount of money by procuring much unnecessary health equipment. People are deprived of services in the absence of skilled manpower, low attendance of physicians, inadequate supply of medicines and lack of arrangements for necessary medical examinations.
CAB said Bangladesh is self-dependent in medicine production and exports medicines to 142 countries. But adulterated, date expired and substandard medicines are still being sold widely in the local market. Meanwhile, the high prices of some drugs are beyond the purchasing capacity of the poor. The fees of private doctors and examinations at different private hospitals and diagnostic centres are mostly uncontrolled.
Import duty is pushing up cost for consumers
Criticising the foreign trade policy, the CAB report said it was desirable that the costs of products in the local market will be consistent with those in the international market. But that has been far from the reality.
Due to high import tariffs, people in Bangladesh had to spend $14,223 million extra on products in 2017. Import duty in Bangladesh is on average 25.64 percent, which is much higher than in other South-East Asian countries having 4.73 percent import duty in 2016. In order to supply products at affordable prices, Ghulam Rahman believes that a reduction in import duty should be considered.