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     Volume 7 Issue 11 | March 14, 2008 |


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Newsnotes

Soaring to the Sky
Amidst the price hikes over the last many months, the price of the two most essential commodities shot up sky-high in the last few days.
The staggering hike was due to a sudden imposition of a fresh restriction on rice export by the Indian government last week, not to mention the hoarding of edible oil by local large-scale traders and mill owners.
As a result of the sudden move by the Indian government, barring export of the essential commodity at prices lower than US$650 a ton, hundreds of rice-laden trucks, which had been scheduled to enter Bangladesh, were stranded at the Indian land port Petrapole across the border. To make matters worse, later on in the week, prices of pulses, flour, sugar and onion also went up in the city markets.
To fight the never-ending price rise, through the government's Open Market Sales, essentials are sold at fair prices. So far, however, it has not brought about any significant change in the situation. Rather, those belonging to the fixed income group will continue to suffer as prices soar upwards.
In spite of the Open Market Sales that have been running for the past few months, the price of rice has gone beyond a tolerable level.

Freeing the Local from the Central
More welcome changes are being introduced by the government and Election Commission (EC) at the local government level. Notably, the council of advisers approved a proposition in January for amending the current Upazila Parishad Act, 1998, repealing a provision that allows local representatives to the parliament to interfere in the activities of upazila parishads (UP). The Cabinet also approved a proposal for empowering the EC -- instead of the government -- with the authority to announce the UP election schedules.
The moves have been made in order to free the local government system from the interference of the central government. Additional meetings are being held to discuss ways to make the environment more conducive for elections at the local government level. The Public Resources and Budget Management Ordinance (PRBMO), 2008, approved in principle but yet to be passed, will also end the disproportionately high allocation of funds for constituencies of powerful politicians and compel the government to clearly state allocations marked for each upazila, district and division in the budget. Powerful ministers reportedly got higher budget allocations while constituencies with less powerful MPs remained poor and had low rates of poverty alleviation, as happened with Barisal and Khulna, according to a survey by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics. Under the new law, among other things, the budget will also show separate development allocation for women in order to ensure gender equity in public expenditure. The new laws are expected to bring more transparency, accountability and fairness to the whole process.


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