Vol. 5 Num 698 Wed. May 17, 2006  
Front Page

JS Body on Price Hike
Govt mechanism ineffective against food syndicate

Members of a parliamentary body yesterday blamed the price hike of essentials on a syndicate of importers and asked the ministry to make a list of the traders who import the essential goods.

At a meeting, the parliamentary standing committee on commerce ministry also observed that the government's mechanisms are not working against the price spiral "engineered by a section of importers".

"Not all businessmen are honest. So, the government must practise some kind of control over the market in the interest of the people," Committee Chairman and BNP lawmaker Redwan Ahmed told reporters after the meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.

"We have asked the ministry to place a list of importers of essential goods by the end of this month and details about their business activities," he said adding that the committee will again meet to discuss the issue after getting the dossier on importers.

Commerce Minister Hafiz Uddin Ahmed and committee member and Awami League (AL) General Secretary Abdul Jalil did not attend the meeting.

"We've asked the commerce ministry to keep the prices of essentials including sugar within reach of the ordinary people," Redwan Ahmed said.

"I think the ministry should have a covert mechanism to control the prices. They [government] should not completely depend on the private sector," he observed.

He also suggested that the government begin open market sale (OMS) of sugar.

"The price of sugar has risen astronomically and there got to be a syndicate behind this. The government will have to track down the culprits if it has to improve the market situation," a source quoted BNP lawmaker Monirul Huq Chowdhury as telling the meeting.

"It's solely the government's responsibility to contain the skyrocketing prices of essentials. But currently none of its [government] mechanisms is working," noted the committee.

Referring to the sale of sugar through the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), AL lawmaker Rafiqul Anwar alleged that the ward commissioners and ruling alliance men had "looted the sugar instead of selling those to the common people".

He said the government has failed miserably to arrest the soaring prices of daily necessities, as the ruling party loyalists are involved in it.

"The meeting ended abruptly after we sought from the ministry an explanation of the price situation," Rafiqul Anwar told The Daily Star.

Referring to the OMS system, the commerce secretary informed the meeting that the ministry has already taken measures to keep the prices at a reasonable level.

Committee members former commerce minister Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, Mohammad Yunus, LK Siddique, Karim Uddin Bharosha, Mujibur Rahman Manju were present at the meeting.