Bangladesh govt to go all out to arrest price spiral, PM asks to lift all taxes on imported essentials

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also said food inflation is the main concern across the globe following the Ukraine-Russia war and the Covid-induced global recession.

Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee

Partha Pratim Bhattacharjee

The Daily Star



June 14, 2022

DHAKA – The government will make all-out efforts to keep prices of essential commodities stable through measures like lifting all tariffs and taxes on their imports and taking stern action against market manipulation.

As part of the measures, private food importers will get all kinds of support so they can smoothly import food grains and other essential commodities.

The commerce ministry will facilitate imports by the private sector and monitor supply and prices in the market to curb any artificial price spiral.

Importers of essential foods will have to mention their plan for alternative import sources while opening letters of credit at the bank. At the same time, the highest priority will be given to boosting domestic food production.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave these directives at a meeting at the PMO yesterday, said highly placed government sources.

Several ministers and top civil and military officials were present at the National Committee on Security Affairs (NCSA) meeting that started at 10:00am.

During the meeting, Hasina asked that tariffs and taxes on the import of essential commodities be lifted to limit price hikes.

The PM asked the ministries concerned to keep prices of essentials within the people’s purchase capacity and to continue the drives against syndicates, irrespective of their political affiliation.

She also said food inflation is the main concern across the globe following the Ukraine-Russia war and the Covid-induced global recession, and asked law enforcement agencies to remain vigilant so that no one can cash in spreading rumours against the government and indulge in black marketing.

Earlier, the government formed a high-powered taskforce to review commodity prices and the market situation. On May 23, it advised the government to withdraw VAT on the import of refined soybean, palm, rapeseed, canola and olive oil.

The taskforce also proposed that the government import wheat from India under the government-to-government arrangement and recommended importing edible oil to bring relief to the poor and vulnerable from the spiralling cost of living.

The government also banned the export of rice bran oil and slapped up to 20 percent regulatory duty on around 135 products as part of the government’s broader objectives to discourage their imports and contain volatility in the foreign exchange market.

Hasina also said yesterday that there should be no interference in any political programmes of opposition parties, said meeting sources.

She said political parties will be allowed to conduct their activities including holding rallies and bringing out processions.

But if the parties create an anarchic situation in the name of political programmes, action will be taken against them under the existing laws, she warned.

On June 12, Hasina, also the president of the ruling Awami League, made a similar statement at the party central working committee meeting.

The PM said her government will make all-out efforts to bring BNP to the next parliamentary election, slated for late next year.

Asaduzzaman Mia, chief executive officer of NCSA, told The Daily Star that at yesterday’s meeting the PM came up with several directives regarding price hike of essentials, political activities by opposition parties and easing of traffic congestion.

“She also asked to closely monitor the market regularly to stop syndicates,” said Asaduzzaman.

Asaduzzaman also said the PM asked the city corporations and the traffic division to bring traffic congestion to a tolerable level.

Meeting sources said the PM also ordered the home ministry to monitor activities of the Rohingyas so that they cannot get involved in smuggling of arms and drugs. She further asked the foreign ministry to expedite the Rohingya repatriation process.

Around one million Rohingyas, including 7.5 lakh who fled military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, are living in Bangladesh.

The sources said that at the meeting, Hasina gave several instructions to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka. She said ground-level works of several development projects like metro rail, bus rapid transit, elevated expressway, have already been finished and asked authorities to remove obstacles from the road to facilitate traffic movement, the sources said.

She also blamed irresponsible activities like parking vehicles haphazardly for traffic congestion and asked city corporations and traffic division to take measures in this regard.

The premier asked law enforcement and intelligence agencies to remain vigilant and increase monitoring to avert any untoward incident centring the Padma Bridge inauguration. She also asked them to prevent all kinds of rumours against the government and Padme Bridge.

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