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Targeted subsidies for the poor

| Updated: May 25, 2022 21:05:03

File photo used for representational purpose File photo used for representational purpose

Managing Director and Chairperson of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Kristalina Georgieva has suggested that governments across the world should subsidise the cost of food and energy for the poorest segment of society. Her suggestion comes at a time when a move is on to increase both gas and power tariff in Bangladesh and like people around the world the nationals of this country too are struggling with the rising cost of living. The IMF chief is quite aware of the fact that many governments are providing some help but clearly it falls far short of the need. When it comes to the cost of living crisis induced by the galloping inflation of commodities, she categorically mentions two priorities talking to the BBC. The first one is "the very poor people, segments of society that are now struggling with high food and energy prices". The second priority ought to be to help businesses highly damaged by the ongoing Ukraine war.  

No, the top IMF executive has not made the observation keeping in mind a particular country; rather she has taken into account the global perspective. At a time when the global economy was on the road to recovery, any semblance of market stabilisation was shattered by the war in Ukraine. All the players seen and unseen pulling the trigger directly or the string from behind the scene have done the greatest disservice to mankind at this crucial juncture of human history. People were left battered and bruised, apart from the huge number of lives lost to the pandemic. In time of the need for sagacity, the world leaderships have let their population down by making injudicious choices. Innocent common people are now made to pay for political misadventure and manoeuvres. 

There is, however, no ivory tower from where to enjoy the opponent's sufferings. True, countries with no remote connection to the Ukraine war are paying a heavy price but no one is spared. Inflation rates have reached its highest point in many countries in decades. For example, it is 9.0 per cent in the UK, 8.3 per cent in the US and 7.4 per cent in the Eurozone. This indeed exposes the range and scope of the negative impact of a war in a corner of the highly interconnected world. The two countries engaged in war are major exporters of wheat, cooking oil, gas and fuel oil. Naturally, supply chain disruption on account of both war and embargoes has triggered price escalation on the international market.  

So logic dictates that the poor are looked after in time of this unprecedented crisis. Businesspeople have been taking undue advantage of this situation in this country. The worst example is the artificial crisis of cooking oil by unethically hoarding and hiding stocks. Here the administration left much to be desired in terms of a pro-people stance. Although, raids are now being conducted to recover hidden stocks, the prices are still at an astronomical level. In a situation like this targeted support is essential, as the IMF chief suggests. An effective mechanism has to be developed to reach subsidies directly to the target groups. Any increase in gas and power tariff should be stalled. 

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