Staring at a grim Eid with cost of living rising

With the Inflation rate surging to an eight-year high, middle-to-low income families are spending less this Eid.

Sukanta Halder, Mahmudul Hasan and Abu Talha

Sukanta Halder, Mahmudul Hasan and Abu Talha

The Daily Star



July 7, 2022

DHAKA – It is not any other Eid for many middle and lower-middle income families. They are cutting down expenses for the festival in the face of spiralling living costs.

But the prices of almost all essentials have gone up and to cope, the families are spending less on sacrificial animals, moving to cheaper homes, cutting down protein intake, and even selling off belongings.

The salary of Mamunur Rashid, who works for a private company, increased by Tk 3,000 over the last one year but his monthly expenses went up about Tk 7,000 beyond his pay cheque.

He borrows Tk 7,000 every month.

Rashid, the lone breadwinner for his family of four, said he dropped plans for sacrificing animals this Eid. He used to sacrifice one head of cattle every year sharing the costs with a few others.

“I am keeping no stone unturned to reduce the cost of living. For example, I used to go to work on ride-sharing motorbikes, but now I take a bus.”

Despite all his efforts, paying for his children’s education is still difficult. “I can’t reduce my children’s school costs even if I want to.

“I won’t buy anything new for me or my wife this Eid. I am planning to buy some clothes only for my boy and girl.”

“I now realise that we will have to go through even more difficult days ahead as prices of essential commodities are rising,” Rashid added.

For years, Ziaur Rahman Bulbul, a phone repair shop owner of Shyamoli, had been sharing sacrificial bulls with a friend.

But this year, the two friends could not afford the animal and had to invite five other people to share the cost.

Bulbul does not earn what he used to in 2019. “The high cost of living is hurting me badly,” he said.

Just two months ago, the father of two moved to a smaller home so that he could make rent. Three months ago, he sold his motorbike.

“I used to buy large, medium, and small fish and meat at least four days a week. Now I can buy once a week,” he added.

Day by day the situation is worsening, he added.

The Daily Star spoke to a number of people with limited income across the country and they said the Covid-19 situation has improved but not their earnings and that inflation was hurting a lot.

They are cutting expenses and even meals and expenditure for the Eid festival is not a priority at all.

In Bangladesh, inflation has been rising since October owing to the high cost of commodities globally amid lingering supply chain disruptions and the Russia-Ukraine war breaking out in late February.

Inflation surged to an eight-year high of 7.42 percent in May, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS).

State-owned Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB) data shows that between February 2020 and February 2022, the price of coarse rice increased by 32 percent, fine rice by 28 percent, and coarse lentils by 63 percent. Sugar was up by 32 percent, bottled soybean oil by 55 percent, and loose soybean oil by 83 percent.

Even the prices of detergents, toothpaste, bakery products and noodles/pasta went up.

The surging inflation in Bangladesh has sent living costs to such an extent that many families are grappling to maintain a decent life with limited budgets, said the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) last month in a media briefing.

“Apart from the higher price of basic food items, the high price of non-food items is putting a huge burden on households,” said CPD Executive Director Fahmida Khatun.

Mohammad Tapan, of Paikar Para in Bogura, runs a grocery store with his brother. They run their joint family of nine with their incomes.

“Every year we are affected by floods,” he said, adding, “People of all classes and professions come to our shop. Now middle-class and lower-income shoppers are cutting down on things.”

Mostly, customers paid in cash before but more and more people are buying things on credit, he said, adding that many these days cannot pay the amount back in full at the start of the month.

Tapan said those who used to spend Tk 8,000 a month on essentials at his store now spend Tk 4,000 to Tk 5,000.

“I used to buy new clothes for everyone in the family ahead of Eid. Now I am considering new clothes only for the children. The wife will get a sari only … no new shoes, cosmetics and other items.

“The joy of Eid is no more because of the rising cost of living,” Tapan said.

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