THE working class population is struggling to make ends meet amidst soaring prices of essential commodity. In this context, the open market sales programme of the government is a commendable initiative. The OMS programme is a government intervention to keep prices affordable for the poor. However, the initiative has not been running smoothly since it began. The OMS programme was interrupted again on Monday in the city, as New Age reported on Tuesday, as many dealers refused to open their shops demanding a higher commission. According to the rationing chief controller of Dhaka, 59 out of 128 OMS outlets in the capital did not open on Monday. Dealers now pay Tk 28.50 and Tk 16 against a kilogram of allocation of rice and atta respectively. The sales price for rice and atta are Tk 30 and Tk 17. It is difficult for them, as the dealers argued, to meet their operation cost of an outlet in such a situation. Running an OMS outlet requires a mini truck and at least two staff for which dealers pay 4,000 every day. Because of low amount of allocation, dealers can earn only Tk 3,500 a day. Considering that a large number of low-income people now rely on OMS supply, the government should look into the matter with no delay.
Dealers of the OMS programme arguing that given the commission is too low for the supply they receive, they have proposed making the daily allocation double in case the government finds it difficult to increase the commission so that they can cover their operation cost by increasing sales frequency as products on sales at OMS outlets are in demand. However, the government seems to be in denial. The comment of the directorate general of food on the discontinued service shows this. He said that a couple of OMS shops were probably not open because of a low demand. His comment is not only in denial of the ongoing crisis, it also shows how ill informed they are of the demand of the OMS supplies. From media reports and different studies, it is evident that there is a large gap between the OMS supply and the actual demand. It is in this context, economists have asked the government to open more OMS outlets to aid the people in poverty. They have also pointed out that any market intervention, if it is made through private dealers, should be economically viable. The government should, therefore, realise that private dealers cannot continue with their operation indefinitely by incurring losses.
Under the circumstances, considering the public importance of the OMS programme, the government must immediately sit with the dealers and others concerned to resolve the prevailing crisis to ensure that the service runs smoothly without further interruption.
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