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Hike in essential commodities – keep the fingers crossed

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc on the global economy and Pakistan is no exception. However, the glitches in the economic system of Pakistan may be somewhat distinct vis-à-vis the rest of the world. Every inhabitant of almost every part of the country has grievances about the spike in the prices of essential commodities, which has taken its toll on the diminishing income of all and sundry. Dwindling income alongside the abysmal economic growth in the country has further been aggravated by the so-called anti-market practices, which eventually leave adverse impact on the economics of every household across the country. There seems a missing LINK here…

The incumbent government is cognizant of the entire scenario of the price hike of the basic commodities but in vain. One presumes the government is helpless before the mafia, which restrain the supply chain and availability of the commodities and also cause disruption at will causing surge in prices at the expense of the populace. If it holds true, what is the government for? The masses presume the government has left them at the mercy of the unknown groups, which pull the strings of the prices of the commodities leaving the common man in the lurch.

There are plenty of questions vis-à-vis inflationary pressure in the country at present. What is the benefit of sahulat bazars, Sunday or model bazaars and the open market etc.? What fiscal, financial and administrative measures has the government taken to stabilize the prices over the period of last one year in particular? What is the role of the Competition Commission of Pakistan in this regard? What is outcome of the recommendations floated by the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) and how effective this committee is?

If the government is cognizant of the difficulties being faced by the common man, the prompt actions must be taken and the hoarders etc. must be held responsible with exemplary punishment. It is the duty of the federal government to bring stability to the prices of the basic commodities to provide relief to the downtrodden in particularly.

One is bewildered about the price mechanism of sugar, poultry, wheat flour, vegetables etc. There seems no checking of anti-market practices in these sectors. Retailers and wholesalers, let alone the middle men, charge whatever they please. Customers are the sufferers eventually and are looking for a messiah to redress their perennial anguish.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation is beyond the set target for the current fiscal and is drifting towards the double digit for which the masses would bear the brunt. Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), which monitors the price movement of 51 essential items on a weekly basis, also speaks volumes of the surge in prices which must be addressed sooner rather than later.

The prices of vegetables and essential grocery items constitute over 80% of the income of millions of denizens across the country in addition to those who cannot afford meal twice a day in the wake of lack of proactive measures by the provincial and federal government.

Exorbitant profit margin is being charged with impunity for almost everything including wheat flour, sugar, tomatoes, onions, cooking oil, potatoes, chicken, apples, bananas, gram pulse, lentils etc. The difference in the prices in the vegetable market and at the greengrocers’ is massive. There are plenty of vegetables grown in winter and in abundance, which should decelerate the prices. On the contrary, there is surge in the prices of even such vegetables. Prices of onions should have retreated due to the recent ban on export and also the import of onions from Iran. The prices of onions soared instead of backtracking. There is relief in prices since last week or so, thanks to the voluntary ban by the exporters of onions for a couple of weeks. It is heart wrenching that no one has been held accountable for the undue profit margin at the expense of the poverty-stricken population for both rural and urban areas. The chicken prices are beyond to the affordability of the general public by virtue of no corrective measures taken by the government.

Pakistan is an agrarian economy which imports tomatoes, onions, sugar, wheat etc. It is time to take timely decisions and to keep our fingers crossed for the better times, which might be on the horizon.

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