Thursday, 29 September, 2022

Subsidised rice sale a welcome move

After a long hiatus, the government on Thursday kick-started Food Friendly Programme (FFP) and Open Market Sale (OMS) of rice across the country to reduce the hardship of low-income people caused by sky-rocketing price hike of essential commodities. For example, along with all other items, the price of coarse rice has shot up to Tk. 60 per kilogram from around Tk. 50 much to the agony of common people. Under the OMS program, the government is self-targeted to sell around 3 lakh tonnes of rice at Tk. 30 per kg. At the same time, around 50 lakh families will be given 30 kg of rice at Tk. 15 rate for the five months from September under the Food Friendly Programme.

While inaugurating the programme, the food minister has claimed that the country has enough rice at stock thanks to the bumper rice production. But all the claims about achieving self-sufficiency in food production have little meaning when the essential food items go beyond the purchasing capacity of the poor people.

However, there is doubt that these two schemes have come as a sigh of relief for the common people, and if the initiatives can be implemented in a meaningful way, it will bring multifarious benefits. It can remedy, even if partially, the sufferings of the low and fixed income people. And at the same time it can help to contain price volatility of rice in the market.

But in previous years, there were widespread irregularities in selection of the beneficiaries and distribution of rice. It was reported that many of those who were awarded the tender to sell the rice to the poor sold it directly to the market. On the other hand, the names of many affluent people were found in the list of ultra-poor people eligible to buy subsidised rice. So, we have bitter experience of how subsidised rice released by the government got plundered by a section of corrupt government officials as well as public representatives.

We, therefore, would like to hope that the authorities concerned will take all out measures to plug the holes in the implementation of these two well-meaning initiatives. If the schemes cannot be implemented in an impartial and need-based way, it will neither benefit the poor nor cool down the rice market.