By- Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
When majority of the Bangladeshi Muslims are still in the mood of Eid festival, the government of Bangladesh has made an announcement of November 10, 2011 that it has decided to further increase the prices of Octane, Petrol and Diesel, which has been a bitter Eid Gift to the nation just within less than two months, when the government increased the prices of the petroleum products saying it was done as the prices of such products in the international market increased. The latest increase in prices of the petroleum products will not only adversely affect country’s industrial sectors, but also will add people’s sufferings at the much higher degree. It may be mentioned here that, since Bangladesh Awami League [BAL] came in power in January 2009, prices of petroleum products have been increased several times, thus breaking all previous records on such increase. Mass people in the country feel that the government and the policymakers in the petroleum ministry are continuing to punish them by exorbitantly increasing prices of the petroleum products, without giving minimum consideration to the degree of sufferings of the citizen of the country.
It may be mentioned here that Bangladeshi governments have developed a culture of increasing prices of petroleum products as well as public utility services in order to cope with the down-ward economy, which is mostly caused by limitless corruption, nepotism and financial crimes mostly committed by the people in power. But, the current government has been repeatedly increasing such prices in such an exorbitant way that, it already has not only put the lives of the citizen into extreme sufferings and extended economic hardship, but also is contributing in screwing country’s industrial sector, especially the readymade garments, ceramics, cement and steel processing factories into the most potential threats of facing closure, as production costs will now greatly increase, which may ultimately make Bangladeshi made products comparatively expensive than those manufactured in India. But, the current BAL government has visibly not reached into its fullest satisfaction of causing sufferings to the people and the finance minister AMA Muhit is getting set to make another skyrocket rise in the prices of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which has become a popular alternative fuel for many of the industrial and transport sectors, including public transports. It may be mentioned that the government has already increased the CNG prices twice in 2011. The finance minister is suggesting an increase in the price of CNG and makes it at the same level of diesel, when country’s public transport will be forced to increase fares up to the level of minimum 60 percent. Petroleum experts in Bangladesh are critical of finance minister’s ridiculous decision of further increase in the prices of CNG as it already is five times higher than that of commercial price of gas supplied to industrial sectors in the country.
Some experts are also seeing many of the current CNG users switching to diesel, where the country will be put into additional burden of import of diesel thus contributing extended pressure on country’s foreign exchange reserve, which already is at an alarming level.
Current finance minister AMA Muhit was recruited as the finance minister by military dictator Hussein Muhammed Ershad, who was later kicked out of the cabinet due to his complete failure in running the ministry and was replaced by M. Saiduzzaman, who had been proved to be a very successful finance minister. For reason unknown, the current government is Bangladesh has developed a habit of banking on mostly incapable and failed individuals in running various ministries, which also has been greatly contributing in disastrous results in performances of the government. Many believe that, these incapable ministers are good enough in putting the minimum acceptability and popularity of the Bangladesh Awami League led government into dock.
The government is continuing increasing prices of the fuel and gas at a time when country’s export oriented industrial sectors, especially textile and ceramics are already facing tremendous hardship. Moreover, following the increase in the wages in China, textile buyers are shifting orders to countries like Vietnam, India and Bangladesh, where Bangladeshi products were enjoying an advantageous edge over those from Vietnam and India because of comparatively cheaper production cost. It is expected that these countries would be able to increase their textile exports to the tune of 45-50 per cent if they can maintain the price competitiveness over those from China. Vietnamese and Indian textile products were already seeing a huge threat from Bangladeshi products because of cheaper production cost as well as precise craftsmanship. But, the way finance minister AMA Muhit and energy advisor Towfiq Elahi Chowdhury are continuing the exorbitant increase in the prices of gas and petroleum, it is feared that, Bangladesh may ultimately be not only deprived of grabbing a significant portion of the newly opened prospect of textile export market, but may even be forced to lose huge orders to Indians and Vietnamese exporters.
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is globally renowned Anti-Jihadist Journalist, Columnist, author & Peace Activist. He is the Editor of “Weekly Blitz” and “Daily Frontline”. He is the recipient of PEN USA Freedom to Write Award 2005, AJC Moral Courage Award 2006, Key to the Englewood City, NJ, USA [Highest Honor] 2007; Monaco Media Award, 2007. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org