Officials failing to inspect price hike to face action

Prime Minister Imran Khan warns officials of dire consequences if they fail to keep a check on the price hike.

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PM Imran Khan on Wednesday, instructed the provinces to make sure that price lists were displayed at all essential items’ shops. He further warned that strict action would be taken against the relevant assistant commissioners (AC’s) in case of price hike and hoarding in their particular areas.

Chairing a meeting on prices and supply/demand of food items, PM Khan also directed for strict action to be taken against those involved in last year’s sugar crisis. Relevant federal and provincial ministers, secretaries, chief secretaries and other senior officers were amongst the attendees.

During the meeting, it was decided that the market committees in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is in government would be dissolved and new bodies would be set up comprising of upright individuals equipped with the right expertise to tackle market issues.

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An official press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office said that action would be taken against the relevant assistant commissioner in case price lists are not implemented. It further revealed that the Prime minister had directed all provincial chief secretaries to ensure implementation of official price lists and effective role of local administrations in this regard.

PM khan said that apart from ensuring availability of basic commodities, guaranteeing appropriate prices was the government’s top priority. He ordered the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) to ensure the availability of essential goods at all outlets.

The Ministry of National Food Security was also asked to complete the assessment work as soon as possible, on future requirements of basic commodities, like wheat and sugar so that arrangements could be made in advance.

The chief secretaries were directed to ensure implementation of decisions regarding prices through active and effective role of the administration and ordered stern action against those found negligent.

January 2021, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was recorded at 5.7pc as against 14.6pc in the corresponding month of the previous fiscal year, revealed Finance Minister Dr Hafeez Sheikh during the meeting. The CPI, recorded at 8.2pc during July-January period of the current fiscal, was lower than the 11.2pc calculated during the same period in last fiscal, he added.

The meeting was told that comparison between the latest statistics indicated a notable decline in the CPI. It was also informed that the prices of wheat flour had shown stability while sugar, onion and egg prices had fallen.

There was an extensive discussion regarding the failure of the market committees after examining the price difference between wholesale and retail levels. It was therefore decided that the existing market committees be immediately abolished in the two provinces which were under PTI’s rule. It was decided that the responsibilities would be handed over to the district and tehsil administrations till new committees were formed.

Read More : PM Imran Khan orders crackdown against sugar mafia in Pakistan

The attendees were also briefed about the measures that were undertaken taking into account the sugar inquiry report to keep the price of the commodity in check. The process of the installation of cameras in sugar mills would also be accelerated, it was decided. Moreover, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) will provide provincial governments with details of sales tax collected under the head of sugar to ensure transparency.

Double Whammy- Fuel price hike adding to common man’s misery

The current government under the leadership of Imran Khan has increased the petrol and diesel prices for the third time in the last 31 days. A notification issued by the PM Office read that price of petrol has increased by Rs2.70 effective from February 1 (Monday) after approval from Prime Minister Imran Khan.

This is the fifth time that the government has jacked up the prices of petroleum in the past nine weeks. It has obviously sent shock waves throughout the country and farmers in particular whose lives had already been adversely affected by Covid19.

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It is evident that the government has pushed the people to the edge with its decision. The steady increase in the petrol and diesel prices has made life intolerable for a common man. The unforeseen pandemic Covid19 had already resulted in loss of livelihoods and this move by the government has added to the woes of the people. The farmers would be hit the hardest as they are reliant on diesel for irrigation and transport.

This increase in the prices of petroleum products is bound to have a cascading effect and will lead to a surge in prices of other essentials. This would further complicate the family budgets that have already been strained by high gas and electricity prices.

Who is to blame?

Economists believe that the price hike is a result of mismanagement and bad governance on the part of the government, specifically at the provincial and municipal levels. Dr Shahid Hasan Siddiqui, a senior economist and chairman of the Research Institute of Islamic Banking and Finance had said that the rising inflation is also due to the increased borrowing from banks and international lenders because of low tax recovery and increase in interest rates.

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The hoarders and mafias also have an active role in the increase of prices of products with the support of government machinery. Till now, district administrations responsible for price control have also failed miserably. The mafias’ control on supply of essential food items like sugar, wheat flour, and milk has made it difficult for a common man to survive.

It is hoped that now that the prime minister has taken notice of the situation, there would be an improvement in the state of affairs.