Fare hike to overtax low-income group

Staff Correspondent | Published: 00:28, May 31,2020


Proposed 80 per cent bus fare hike will overtax the low-income group amid the COVID-19 situation when livelihood losses and job cuts have been haunting them since March 26, the beginning of the government-imposed holyday.

As the holyday ended on May 30 and public transport is set to reopen tomorrow on a limited scale, implementing such decision would have economic repercussions, according to economists, right groups and political parties.

Experts fear that this would spark inflation  causing multiple impacts at a time when 80 per cent of the informal sector workers have already become jobless and are suffering from food crisis.   

They said that the government could easily reduce fuel oils prices to transfer benefit of the plummeting petroleum products in the international market and curb rampant extortion in the transport sector to trade off losses to be incurred by bus operators for carrying passengers half of the capacity to comply with the health guideline.

But the government preferred meeting the demand of the bus operators to the interest of the passengers, said Jahangirnagar University economics professor Anu Muhammad.   

The extra fare would be a huge burden for the informal sector workers rushing to big cities, including capital Dhaka for job, he added.

The bus operators demanded a 100 per cent hike in fairs after the cabinet division issued a circular saying that public road transports, passenger water vessels and trains could run on a limited scale with a fixed number of passengers maintaining health safety guidelines between May 31 and June 15.

On March 26, the authorities imposed a ban on the movement of all public road transports to check the virus outbreak.

Left leaning political parties including Left Oikya Front and Revolutionary Workers Party of Bangladesh have protested at the proposed bus fare hike.

They asked the government to stop extortion on roads instead, according to a press release issued by the Socialist Party of Bangladesh.

Consumer Association Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman said the government could even provide subsidy to the bus operators.

Putting the whole load squarely on the passengers was simply illogical and irrational, he argued.

Passenger Welfare Association of Bangladesh in a statement protested at the government decision saying that the fare hike would create problems for passengers. 

Association secretary general Mozammel Haque doubted that the health guideline would not be maintained.

Nirapad Sarak Chai founder actor Ilias Kanchan said that operating buses by maintaining health guideline would be a huge task as the transport sector has been prone to irregularities.

He also said that the chance of lowering the fare in future in the post-COVID-19 situation would be slim since the government hardly has any control over the sector.

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