In the face of severe oppostion criticism in parliament for his alleged failure to control price hike of essential commodities, commerce minister Tipu Munshi on Monday offered to resign if the prime minister gives the responsibility of running the ministry to one of the opposition lawmakers.
Gonoforum lawmaker Mokabbir Khan fired the first shot against Tipu Munshi during the discussion on proposed cut motion on the Ministry of Commerce in the budget for FY2023-24.
Jatiya Party lawmakers also criticised the commerce minister for the rising prices of daily commodities.
They also raised the question whether the ‘business’ minister, Tipu Munshi, was involved with the market syndicate or not.
Rustam Ali Faraji of Jatiya Party said in the discussion on the retrenchment proposal, what does the monitoring cell of the ministry do?
‘Such a big ministry. If the minister does not have dynamism, then the price will increase. If only one person works and everyone sleeps, then the country will not run. Market syndicates should be broken up. It is certainly possible if desired. But if you think the business belongs to me then it is sad for the country and its people.’
Jatiya Party’s Shamim Haider Patwari said that even though the commodity prices have decreased in global markets in the last few months, it is not affecting the country.
‘Inflation in Bangladesh was 6 per cent now it seems to be 10 per cent. It is growing. Inflation is eating away people’s income. Due to inflation, soap, bread are all getting smaller,’ he said.
He mentioned that making the government budget and household budget are not the same thing.
‘The economy of Bangladesh is trapped in a vicious cycle of inflation. The government should take steps to overcome this,’ he said.
‘There are syndicates. There is no doubt about it. That syndicates are powerful. But are they stronger than the government? I don’t think they can be stronger than the government. If there is a syndicate within the government, it must be identified,’ he said.
He said that the minister has a vast business.
‘He is a successful businessman. I believe that if he is given the freedom to act, then he can definitely control it,’ said he.
Gonoforum lawmaker Mokabbir Khan said that the most unsuccessful ministry of the current government was the Ministry of Commerce.
‘When you go to the market, you hear from people that the Ministry of Commerce is so unsuccessful that people call it a syndicate friendly ministry.’
Alleging the involvement of a syndicate of traders to increase the price of goods, Mokabbir said that many people said that the commerce minister was involved.
‘Why don’t you resign after all this?’ Mokabbir asked the the commerce minister.
Mokabbir said that when the commerce minister says that the price of a product will decrease, the price of that product increases the next day.’
He said that he knows that the minister would not give any answer.
Jatiya Party lawmaker Roshan Ara Mannan said that people got upset when they went to the market.
‘The Ministry of Commerce is not monitoring the market properly. The commerce minister is a freedom fighter. Why can’t he control the market?’
Jatiya Party lawmaker Pir Fazlur Rahman said that the minister of state for industries said that people cry when they go to market, and the only reason is the syndicate.
‘People also understand this. The Russia-Ukraine war alone should not be blamed for the rise in commodity prices. The syndicate has looted thousands of rupees in the egg market. Chicken eggs do not come from Ukraine.’
He said that the commerce minister had said that some traders were taking advantage of the product prices.
‘Our commerce minister cannot arrest the syndicate people who raise prices. He himself is a businessman. He knows which businessmen are doing it. So are these businessmen close to him, which is why he can’t catch the syndicate businessmen?’
He demanded that the commerce minister should say publicly why he is not able to do that.
Pir Fazlu said that Tk 1500 crore has been looted in the onion market.
‘A few companies are looting Tk 17 crore daily in the sugar market. Thousands of crores of taka has been looted in boiler chicken market in a month and a half. The commerce minister can’t do anything.’
Tipu Munshi said that it was possible to take actions against the market syndicate.
‘There is talk of syndicate. It’s just that big groups do a lot of business together. We need to focus – we jailed, fined. That might be possible. But it will be difficult for us to bear the sudden crisis. That’s why we try to stay within the rules through discussion,’ he said.
Referring to his involvement in politics long before coming to business, Tipu said, ‘One thing that comes up time and again is that I am a businessman and businessmen are taking advantage of me. I don’t know how many years of experience they have in politics. But I have been in politics for 56 years. I have been in business for 40/42 years now.’
Responding to Mokabbir’s demand, the minister said, ‘Someone here asked me to resign. I will tell the honorable prime minister that if he (Mokabbir) takes responsibility, she can relieve me and give the responsibility to him. I have no problem.’
Tipu said that the price had increased and the prime minister repeatedly said that people were suffering.
He mentioned that the global situation has affected the country, not the internal causes. ‘we have to take that into consideration.’
Talking about the onion price, the minister said that there was no doubt that the price had increased. Onions have been mentioned. We discussed with the Ministry of Agriculture and decided that farmers should get a price that encourages them to grow.
He mentioned that in onion, the country has a shortfall of 6 to 7 lakh tonnes every year.
‘Farmers will focus on production if the price is better. By this step our deficit is reduced by half. But it should not be exactly Tk 80 to 90 per kg. That is why we have arranged the import,’ he said
He said that the government did not want to import onion for ensuring fair price to the local farmers.
‘But we imported on the instructions of the prime minister. Imported Indian onions are now Tk 40 or Tk 45 per kg. Today, the price of our desi onion is Tk 65. I think it should be reduced further. we are trying. Within 10/15 days it will come to within Tk 50 a kg’
The minister said that everything is not fixed by the Ministry of Commerce.
‘I am still taking responsibility and we are trying our best to do what we can,’ he stated.
Regarding sugar price surge, he said he has requested the prime minister to reduce the duty structure to bring down the price within Tk 100 a kg.