The Inflation Diaries: Rising prices are forcing many Bangladeshis to cut costs in the kitchen or seek out subsidized foods
By Md. Tahmid Zami
DHAKA, July 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Abdus Salam, an unemployed Bangladeshi graduate, started his job search day with a hearty breakfast of boiled eggs. Now, with food prices skyrocketing, he has to make do with chickpeas and a few nuts.
“I have to survive on about 3,000 taka ($32) a month, so I save,” he said.
Salam, 32, who has been seeking a government job for nine years, is among 3.6 million unemployed people in the South Asian nation who are being hit hard by inflation that has hit an eight-year high.
Bangladesh is set to lose its Least Developed Country ranking and join a list of developing countries in 2026, and the government expects the economy to record robust growth of 7.25% in 2021/22 despite a recent slowdown in remittances from abroad.
But many low-income Bangladeshis say they are missing out on the fruits of economic growth due to surging inflation, largely due to rising global energy and food costs triggered by the war in Ukraine.
Workers in the key garment industry took to the streets in the capital, Dhaka, early last month to protest the rising cost of food and other basic necessities, with some saying they would demand wage increases if inflation could not be brought under control.
Like Salam, self-employed Mohammad Bahar, 50, said he and his wife were forced to change their diets.
“We stopped consuming soybean oil,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
In the couple’s dimly lit laundry room in the capital’s Mugda district, Bahar irons customers’ clothes up front while his wife runs a tailoring business out back, but he said they still struggle to cover their monthly expenses of 30,000 taka.
Many ordinary Bangladeshis fear the worst is yet to come as the government prepares to revise fuel prices even higher in the near future, undermining their hopes for a sustained improvement in living standards after the hardships of the pandemic. .
“It was very difficult times. We had to close our store at 2 p.m.,” said Parvez, 41, a grocer, asking not to give his full name.
“Without any official help, we went into debt to survive,” he said.
As rising prices make it harder to service debts, government-issued family ration cards are seen as a lifeline for low-income people. Earlier this year, the High Court ordered the government to distribute essentials to citizens through a rationing system.
But ration cards have yet to reach most families in need, said Mesba Uddin, a man in his 30s who works in information technology.
People still waiting for cards can be seen queuing next to government trucks selling essential groceries at affordable prices.
Salam said he had relied on cheap, subsidized meals in the canteens of his former university as he continued his search for a stable job for years, but was determined not to give up hope.
“I always think positive. I’m a fighter,” he said.
($1 = 93.3600 taka)
(Reporting by Md. Tahmid Zami; Editing by Hugo Greenhalgh. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world struggling to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news .trust.org)
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