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How can we control the price hike in Pakistan?

Pakistan has been caught in an inflationary spiral, having a daunting double-digit inflation rate currently averaging 10.9% as against the recommended 2-3%. Being a net importer of energy and now food as well Pakistan faces price fluctuation which fuels inflation. So how can Pakistan control the price hike? explains Mushtaq Jumma.

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This month newspapers brought two news that fell on the people of Pakistan like a double-edged sword. First one, Milkmen increased the prices of dairy products in Federal Capital. The latest increase was made without the approval of the administration. The milk sellers increased the prices twice in two months while the local administration did not have a clue of what to do. Further, the discontent and misery prevail as the government announced a massive increase in petroleum prices as the oil prices have risen to the highest since October 2018 while the government has hardly any control over it other than minimizing or removing the tax on oil imports. The price hike has been a real challenge for Pakistani civilians.

Though the oil price has affected the globe and our neighbours are paying even costlier per litre however, the discontent in Pakistani public has other reasons where commodities prices are on the rise lately and this gives the plunderer politicians a chance to reclaim their lost popularity.

Read more: Food price hike in country lower than international market: govt

Looking for solutions through consumer movement

The time to act by govt is now or never. The commodities mafias like sugar or milk can only be beaten by masses through consumer activism that includes boycotts, media activism and organizing interest groups. Avoiding the purchase of the perishables like milk can scare the mafia through the loss of even one day.

Such movements always play vital role in maintaining inflation at check-in in many countries for example and described as the “granddaddy of all activist campaigns”  Nike came under fire for utilizing subcontracted international factories to produce their products with substandard working conditions and  pay. The Greenpeace boycott against Kit Kat in the year 2010. Greenpeace found that palm oil production used in Kit Kats was destroying the rainforests and habitats of orangutans. Through massive social media activity, Greenpeace forced Kit Kat to cut all ties with M/s Sinar Mas Group, the company that was providing palm oil. Kit Kat later pledged to use only rainforest-sustainable palm oil by 2015. This movement is hailed as notable success in consumer activism.

After President Trump’s Executive Order 13769 banning immigration from seven countries to the United States in January 2017, protests arose in many airports of the country. At JFK airport, New York, Uber was criticized for not canceling its service and allegedly using the event to profit during a Taxi Workers Alliance protest. This led to a Twitter campaign of #deleteuber where over 200,000 users deleted the app. CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick vacated his position as an advisor in the economic advisory council of President Trump due to criticism over Trump and the travel ban.

Read more: Pakistan’s cheapest car company “sorry” for price hike

Celebrity Endorsement  

Lena Dunham After Uber removed price surges following a taxi hour of solidarity for the immigration ban at the JFK airport, there was almost instantly a backlash from thousands of Uber users to delete the app, and Lena Dunham, an American actress engaged in the boycott by sending out a tweet indicating that she had deleted the app. Likewise, Shahid Afridi or Jahangir Khan can do wonders.

A consumers’ co-operative is an enterprise owned by consumers and managed democratically which aims at fulfilling the needs and aspirations of its members. They operate within the market system, independently of the state, as a form of mutual aid.

Consumers Cooperative    

The Utility Stores in Pakistan can be run in line with the Consumer Cooperatives rather than non-efficient public sector organization. For example,  in France, Coop Atlantique owns 7 hypermarkets, 39 supermarkets and about 200 convenience stores.  In Germany, The ReWe Group is a diversified holding company of consumer cooperatives that include thousands of retail stores, discount stores, and tourism agencies. It ranks as the second-largest supermarket chain in Germany and in the top ten cooperative groups in the world.

Read more: Officials failing to inspect price hike to face action

Japan has a very large and well-developed consumer cooperative movement with over 14 million members. Approximately 1 in 5 of all Japanese households belongs to a local retail co-op and 90% of all co-op members are women. In the United States, the PCC (Puget Consumers Cooperative) Natural Markets in Seattle is the largest consumer-owned food cooperative.

Prosperity for All

Except a couple of companies, no company is paying their workers, who compose major section of poor masses, the prescribed minimum wage of Rs. 25,000 per month as per law. This includes private companies, home servants, private schools teachers and 3rd party contractor employees who are hired by huge public and private organizations.

A friend of mine, Saleem Khan, well known executive of Energy sector and active member of Consumer Association of Pakistan reminds me of the fact that how little we know such association and its role towards inflation control. There is a Consumer Protection Act, Consumer Courts but hardly hear about them. Let’s own them and assist them.

Read more: Artificial Price Hike: Lahore Overwhelmed with Soaring Prices of Vegetables & Essential Commodities

And last but definitely not least is the media role which can create momentum to control inflation. According to research from Eastern Michigan University, boycotts that are media-orientated rather than marketplace-orientated have far-reaching effects. Lets make it a habit of discussing prices on TV channels during prime time and cause people make noise on every inflation move. This will Insha Allah make the rise of inflation lessened to a minimum.

Mushtaq Jumma is an Ex-Airliner and Business Consultant. He can be reached at mushtaqjumma@hotmail.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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