“I could start begging on the street”

Bangladesh, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, has hiked fuel prices by more than 50% in just one week. He blames the rise in oil prices following the war in Ukraine. Thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest, as another South Asian country faces a growing financial crisis.

As he waits in line to get petrol for the truck he uses to transport the vegetables, Mohammad Nurul Islam says he fears he will soon have to resort to begging.

An unexpected rise in fuel prices in Bangladesh pushed petrol prices up from 86 taka (91 cents, 75p) a liter to 130 taka ($1.37, £1.13).

Diesel and kerosene also increased by 42.5%.

The steep increases have left Mohammed, who has worked for a transport company for nine years, struggling to pay for the essentials.

The 35-year-old, who lives in the northern city of Dinajpur, brings fresh produce from his hometown to the capital, Dhaka.

He has two young children and dependent parents, but says his bosses cannot afford to pay him his full salary now that the fuel price hike has arrived.

Mohammed Nurul Islam supports his children and parents

“When I go to the market, I cannot buy enough food for my family. If the price of fuel continues to rise like this, I cannot take care of my parents or send my children to school.

“If I lose my job, I might have to start begging on the streets,” he says.

Countless other people in this country of more than 168 million people face a similar situation.

Like many other countries, Bangladesh was the hardest hit by the global rise in oil prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We know that the price increase is significant, but what can we do if the cost of fuel increases in foreign countries?” the country’s energy minister, Nasrul Hamid, told BBC Bangla.

Denying accusations of economic mismanagement by the government, Hamid said his administration had given grants to avoid hikes in the past, but hikes were now inevitable.

“If world prices go down a certain point, we will try to make some adjustments,” he added.

After news of the hike broke last week, thousands of people demonstrated at petrol stations across the country in scenes reminiscent of Sri Lanka, calling for the hikes to be reversed.

Protests in Bangladesh have been sporadic, but anger and resentment are growing.

Gasoline prices have jumped about 50%

Nasrul Hamid thinks his country will avoid the fate of Sri Lanka, even if foreign exchange reserves are dwindling.

In July, Bangladesh – whose economy had been hailed as one of the most dynamic in the world – became the third country in South Asia to apply for a loan from the International Monetary Fund, after Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

But for Mossammad Zakia Sultana, who can barely afford the bus fare to take her sick child for treatment, any help will come too late.

As public transport fares rise due to soaring fuel prices, she only makes the most essential journeys.

She talks to the BBC on the bus on the way to hospital, her teenage daughter by her side. She says recent food price hikes have already hit her hard.

“Not only has the price of the bus increased, but the price of everything in the market has also increased, which makes it difficult for me to manage my family’s expenses,” she says.

“It’s not just bus fares. Rickshaws and other means of transport have gone up, so it’s becoming difficult to get out of the house.”

In the more remote areas of Dinajpur, the stories are similar. Sheuli Hazda works in the rice fields of the Phulbari rice district.

Sheuli Hazda says she struggles to afford food

She says she can barely afford the food she grows.

“With the sudden rise in the price of fuel, the cost of farming has become very expensive,” she says.

“Our salaries barely cover our living expenses. Everything is so expensive that we cannot buy enough rations to feed our children.”

As the cost of living rises in Bangladesh, people like Sheuli say their income is becoming worthless.

“If the government doesn’t reduce fuel prices soon, we will starve.”

Additional reporting by Salman Saeed