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Price hikes before Ramazan

OpinionPrice hikes before Ramazan
By: Asem Mustafa Awan

A new spike in inflation has gripped the country well ahead of the start of Ramazan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims all over the world. The back-breaking rise in prices of daily use items is taking a toll on commoners. The hoarders and profiteers become active like a mafia every year around the holy month in Pakistan. The practice of exploiting consumers’ wish for spending more on food, both for consumption and charity, is 180 degrees opposite to the spirit of the holy month of fasting in Islam. The governments that are responsible to rein in prices consider rhetoric against price hikes as sufficient. This is a routine happening every year over Ramazan and all governments fail to prevent this blatant drive of exploitation.

Special measures as always announced with provincial governments organizing Ramazan bazaars where food items are available at controlled rates. These special bazaars are set up to provide relief and its supply and demand is monitored but the public complains of poor quality of products. This happens every year and sub-standard items are displayed much to the dismay of the public resulting in intensifying the already simmering situation.

Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) raised abundant voices against price hikes and inflation when Imran Khan was at the helm of affairs but what is being witnessed now is worse. Chairman of the People’s Party and Foreign Minister of the PDM government Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has expressed his disappointment on the performance of his own coalition government.

He has raised the issue that the government has not addressed their concerns regarding controlling inflation, helping flood victims and census and these are almost some concerns by the other allies forming the coalition. Even the people in government believe that if the current level of inflation stays unchecked, it will be impossible for them to win the general elections ahead.
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during the cabinet meeting two weeks ago ordered strict action against hoarders and profiteers giving the local administration free hand. It is pertinent to note that nothing has come out from the PM’s direction as no plan has been presented by the administration as how to tackle the impending issue.

Overall governance standards in Pakistan are deteriorating over the years as no efforts were ever made to increase the capacity of the farmers. Despite Pakistan being an agrarian economy, it has to import wheat to meet the staple needs of the people. The country has the potential to grow all kinds of crops and fruits but the government seems to turn a deaf ear to the farmers’ plight of capacity building.

The government announced Kisan Package six months ago. For several months, the farmers kept reminding the Prime Minister to start the implementation of this package but in the end, the very same announcement was annulled. The Minister of Food and Agriculture remained reluctant and last month it was shelved saying that it was a condition of the IMF. So much is happening in Pakistan with no relief in sight. It is time for policymakers to join hands to take Pakistan out of this quagmire.

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