Fresh price-hike

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LOW inflation remained hallmark of the economic policies of present government but the situation seems to have changed significantly in recent weeks due to various factors. As a consequence, prices of essential items like sugar, bread milk as well as vegetable, fruit and meat have increased considerably.
Chief Minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah deserve credit for taking timely notice of the situation. While Punjab CM described the hike as artificial, his Sindh counterpart expressed concern over sky-rocketing prices of tomatoes, onions and other vegetables and directed agriculture department to intervene into the market by reducing the role of middlemen and control the prices. No doubt, the principle of supply and demand is involved but it is more of a question of greed to become millionaire overnight, which is causing problem for the common man. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar had been instrumental in convening meeting of the National Price Control Committee where the overall situation used to be discussed and remedial measures considered and devised. However, it is also responsibility of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, who now chairs the ECC, to review the situation in Committee meetings as artificial price-hike close to general election would have serious consequences for the ruling party. We have been emphasising in these columns that regular increase in prices of wheat flour and sugar are unwarranted and government should now allow their exports at the expense of its own people but so far there is no reversal of the policy. Similarly, increase in regulatory duty on import of items of daily use and their raw material would also cause price-hike besides upward revision of petroleum prices. We will have to strike a balance in our policies besides tightening the price control mechanism already in place in all the provinces.

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