A high-level meeting, presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan, Wednesday, was told that the market committees had failed to deliver and, therefore, it was decided to abolish them in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The forum during its weekly meeting was informed that the difference in prices between wholesale and retail indicated the failure of the market committees. The meeting reviewed the availability and prices of basic commodities across Pakistan.
The deliberations and decisions of the high-level meeting reflect the resolve of the Government to address the challenge of price-hike through effective administrative measures. Market committees were supposed to be autonomous bodies assigned with the task of looking after the interests of both the farmers and the consumers and in Punjab alone, there were 135 committees operating in different areas. These market committees were reconstituted after a long time last year with the sole objective of introducing merit and transparency in their working but it seems the process ended up in rendering them more ineffective mainly because, as per media reports, about 1700 political appointments were made in these committees. Their membership is considered lucrative as in all these collect revenues between Rs. three to four billion in Punjab annually but have miserably failed to perform their core function of regulating prices effectively and fairly. Under these circumstances, one would welcome the move to abolish old ones and constitute new ones but it should be ensured that their members are inducted through a transparency process and they should also include members from consumer associations and courts so that they work on professional lines. The Government has also done well by handing over their responsibility to the concerned district and tehsil administration till the formation of committees consisting of competent persons with the Prime Minister issuing a firm warning that in case of non-implementation of price-lists action would be taken against the Assistant Commissioner concerned. Prices can surely be checked effectively if required powers are granted to the local administration to take action against profiteers and hoarders. District Administration was the most active organ of the civil bureaucracy but the service was destroyed in the name of devolution of power, which miserably failed to produce the desired results. Utility Stores Corporation also has the potential to play a role in fighting the menace of artificial price-hike but its working has also been affected by internal power struggle and controversies, which need to be addressed on a priority basis.