Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi has slammed 'opportunistic' traders for taking advantage of the ongoing energy crisis by overpricing essentials.
"When traders see an opportunity, everyone pounces. But we can't put an end to such practices at once. We have to sit down with them [traders]. We are all trying to work it out," he told reporters on Wednesday.
As the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, the cost of energy has soared to unprecedented highs in the international market, prompting the government to increase domestic fuel prices by as much as 51 percent to cope with the situation.
Many traders looked to capitalise on the situation by hiking the prices of commodities beyond expected levels, according to Munshi. "It's true that the increase in prices has been higher than it should have been. We are trying [to bring it under control].”
By way of example, the minister cited rice prices to drive home the point. "The increased transport costs as a result of higher fuel prices may lead to a Tk 0.50 rise in the price of rice. But traders have raised prices by up to Tk 4."
“Where's the logic here? There isn't any. It means they've seized an opportunity. Give us some time. We are all trying together."
Acknowledging the hardships that people are facing due to the spiralling prices of necessities, Munshi said, "We need to focus on the steps that the prime minister is trying to take to alleviate the situation."
The minister called for a concerted effort to tackle the ongoing crisis as he pointed to the rapid depreciation of the taka against the US dollar, which has put an added strain on imports.
He also vowed to take action against 'rogue' traders.