Middle class of Bangladesh can’t seem to catch a break as politicians drag heels

By Pinaki Roy ,The Daily Star/Asia News Network

It takes about three hours to cross the Padma river by ferry. So, Rezaul Karim, a private jobholder, was happy to hear the finance minister insisting that the Padma bridge will open to the public by 2018. It will be a big achievement of this government, he thought. The 50-year-old sat in front of television to watch the budget session with a hope that Muhith would propose some incentives for the country’s 21 percent middle-class families like his.

But after listening to the whole speech, he had the impression that the upcoming budget would hardly benefit the middle-income group. In fact, in his hours-long speech, the minister uttered the word ��middle�� just twice �X once to say the government would arrange daycare centers for lower and middle-income working women and then to announce Bangladesh would be a middle-income country by 2021. Rezaul, a father of two children, one of whom studies in a private university, was shocked to know he would have to pay more for his son’s education as the government is set to increase duty on private universities.

Also, the duty imposed on raw and refined sugar will mean a rise in prices of many commodities. And as the government is going to waive the tax holiday on incomes from poultry and shrimp sectors while imposing tax on poultry and fish feed, the price of poultry chicken and farm fish might increase as well from next month. Many belonging to the middle-income group would find the proposed budget unfriendly also because prices of construction materials would go up. Imposing higher duty on bikes and cars run by electric batteries looks to be a good initiative as it would decrease traffic jam and nuisance caused by reckless bikers. But it would also push up the price of CNG-run auto-rickshaws. As a result, auto-rickshaw fare is likely to go up. While sipping at a cup of black tea, another item to get pricier, Rezaul tried to think of something that would cost him less in the next fiscal. The first thing that came to his mind is garment products, and then plastic products, mosquito coils, aerosols, jams, jellies, toilet paper, tooth brushes and frames of spectacles. But ironically, people don’t buy any of these items very often.