Food and fuel pricing must be taken into consideration
Monday, 26 May 2008

Preparing budget

The recent talk between the finance adviser and the business leaders at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital perhaps sheds a little light on preparation of a balanced budget. Issues related  to business, price spiraling and agriculture figured in the talk. The Finance Adviser did not forget about agriculture and assured that subsidies will continue and, also, there would be schemes to raise the income of the poor. He promised minimum one hundred days’ employment for one member of each poor family and some other measures. Plainly admitting that the government could do very little to tame the prices, he assured some measures to minimize the impact of this. For decades, the farmers who are responsible for food supply, didn’t receive much attention as a result of which we now have a food crisis of an unprecedented scale. If domestic production had increased, the sufferings would have been much less. Here at least blaming high international prices takes second place to raising domestic production. We just shudder to think what will be the combined effect of high food and energy prices if and when the Finance Adviser raises the price of fuel. With limited resources, he is in a difficult situation.  But the reality is if both food and fuel prices go high, the ordinary people will be crushed. The next budget must have provisions to insulate the poor people from this twin onslaught. Therefore, we feel that budget 2008-9 should target a short-term programme to help the poor while keeping other things at their present levels. The reality is the government just doesn’t have the resources to subsidize both food and oil. Businessmen have their interests to guard but with politics in limbo, it is now for the CG to take up the brief of the poor. Raising prices is good for the government but nightmare for the poor. We have been told that fuel prices shall be raised. That’s natural but the hike should be as little as possible.

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