Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 44, Tuesday, May 10, 2005

 

 

THE MIDDLE CLASS STORY

Prices rise Hopes fall

IN this oppressive summer heat you hear the phrase "damn this heat" so many times it is like a stuck record. Inflation is another word that is mentioned in the same tone in as many number of times. It's rising fast and quickly burning a hole in the pockets of the general public.

Almost everyone feels they are fighting a losing battle against price. Moonlighting or at least the wish to do so is a common activity as one job is simply not enough to meet the needs of daily life. It is affecting a household starting from its doorstep and ending in the far reaches of the toilet. It's not money but your hard work that is going down the drain here. Everyday what you make buys you less.

All this is creating a chain reaction. Rising prices create mounting stress. That in turn increases blood pressure creating newer patients of all ages. The entire country will end up having stress related diseases and only the doctors will be happy as they gleefully count their visit fees.

Where has the money gone?
In our societal segments the tiers of population have long since been divided into the three basic classes of upper, middle and lower classes based on income. The middle class comprises of most of the population and hence they have a greater influence or so it is thought.

The spending pattern of a typical middle class family could look something like this with an average income of about 30 thousand taka.

House rent 10000 (including utility bills)
Groceries 4000
Children's education 6000
Transportation 5000
Health 2000
Other costs 3000

At the present rate that the prices are rising this family would find it very difficult to make ends meet.

Commodity prices increased mainly in the following cases. Besides the utility bills there are many dues left over. Most of the increases are seen affecting the kitchen. Prices of necessary food items such as pulses, oil, meat and green vegetables are becoming costlier every day by about 1-2 taka. Rice of the thick variety that used to cost 18-19 taka has to be bought now at 20-22 taka.

One thing is clear that is the increase in grocery prices is also having a subsequent effect on the process of other things. In case of transportation rickshaw pullers and CNG scooter drivers are asking for 5-10 taka extra per trip. Their argument runs the same as everyone else's. They need the extra money to buy the now pricier food items.

On the other hand materials such as books, clothes etc are being sold at increasing prices stating higher import costs, expensive raw materials, rise in wages demanded, higher taxes and the now infamous VAT. In the end the business people argue that if the public do not buy at the prices asked then how will they (the business people) feed their families. In the end it all relates to that logic of food. All the prices are rising because the food prices are going up. It is fast reaching the sky whereas the people are firmly rooted to the ground. So is the dream of living a normal comfortable life just a dream after all?

An orderly life remains just a disorderly dream
Ifteqar and Shiuli is a couple who work as doctors at two government hospitals. The family life does not have too much to look out for. Extra family members consist of a young daughter and the mother.

They do not their own house in Dhaka so at the end of the month they have to shell out a fat amount as rent. For the past year they have been planning to place a booking for an apartment and pay for it with a bank loan. However, that dream is probably going to remain a dream indefinitely. Prices of apartments have gone up drastically. A small 1200 square feet apartment is about 26-27 lakhs. On top of that different developers ask for different prices. With only a few quality builders prices could be as high as 30-32 lakhs. Adding your desired accessories could push up the costs by another 10 lakhs.

Aminul Islam had a similar plan. He built a small equipment factory at Gazipur. Everyday early in the morning he has to drop off the children and head to Gazipur by bus. Not only is the transport costs very high but it also takes a heavy toll on the body. His plan was to buy a pickup or a station wagon for which he started to take driving lessons. He earned his license too. Waiting to buy the right car ended up seeing a rise of a 4-5 lakhs taka car to 6-7 lakhs. As a result the buses did not lose a customer after all as he could not buy his desired car.

Those with limited earnings find it a major obstacle to realize theirs dreams in this market of inflated prices.

Sacrificing wants to meet needs
The rate at which the price of necessities is gong up, people fear t even think of buying something out of simple desire. It is becoming increasingly difficult to meet the budget. In fact, often they have to dive into their savings. Sometimes the slightest wishes cannot be fulfilled. Nilu and Mimo faced this situation at the Ekushey Book Fair. Every year they buy a collection of books from the fair. This year they found out that they would need about 1500-2000 taka. As a result mother and son were quite upset. Nilu's income leaves about a thousand taka at the end of the month after paying for expenses. If she has to spend more than what's left on books how will she run her family? They needed the books for reference material but somehow that has to remain unfulfilled.

Dipa on the other hand had to withdraw her children from the dance class that they were enrolled in. It costs at least 2000 taka per month. There are other families who set aside a budget for going out and spending time with family members. The high prices, stress and the subsequent hardships and time constraints mean these all have to be put off until an undetermined time.

Celebrations and gifts also suffer for this price hike. Gifts of gold and other precious materials have become more precious. A new custom has come up to present married couples with items they can use in their day-to-day lives. But that too is following the same trend, becoming unattainable.

The reigning thought is when and how money can be saved. As a result fun is slowly fading from peoples lives. Contentment is a thing of the past.

By Sultana Yasmin
Translated by Ehsanur Raza Ronny

 

 

 
 

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