Justification for price-hike

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IN an apparent effort to justify the spiraling prices of almost all items and services, Prime Minister Imran Khan remarked on Thursday that commodity prices have risen by 40 percent worldwide, while the Pakistan government is trying to provide relief by reducing the burden on the people.

Chairing a meeting, which discussed the economic situation, he also recounted positive economic trends despite the challenges thrown by Covid-19.

There is no doubt that as a result of reforms carried out during the last three years, the economy is on a positive trajectory and the Government can rightly and legitimately take credit for improvement in the economic situation.

It is for the first time in several years that the stagnant exports have gone up significantly; remittances by overseas Pakistanis reached a record level, foreign exchange reserves were at satisfactory level, and economic activity picked up (creating also the job opportunities) due to developmental plans launched by the Government including Naya Pakistan Housing for 20,000 housing units worth Rs100 billion, Allama Iqbal Industrial City Faisalabad, Bus Road Transport, Karachi Transformation Plan – Karachi Package, Ravi Urban Development Project and construction of Diamer-Basha and Mohmand dams, Azad Pattan and Kohala Hydropower projects, Mohmand-Sheikh Zayed Road and Special Economic Zones under CPEC.

However, it has to be recognized that the trickledown effect of the policies of the Government has yet to be witnessed and the Government has not been able to tackle the problem of inflation, which has become the number one concern of people of Pakistan.

The Government is taking solace by entertaining ideas like 40% increase in commodity prices worldwide, ‘Pakistan cheapest country in the world’ and ‘energy and POL prices one of the lowest in the region’.

There might be an element of truth in these claims but the authorities do not compare things in terms of per capita income and purchasing power of the people, which, in our case, has gone down mainly because of policy interventions by the Government.

It is because of this that despite initiation of several poverty alleviation schemes worth several hundred billion rupees, the number of people below the poverty line has increased.

There is no silver-lining that things would improve as instead of tackling the menace of price-hike, the Government has now started to take refuge behind unimpressive justifications.

It is known to all that prices of wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil, poultry and medicines increased also due to machinations of different mafias but no action has so far been taken against them despite repeated assurances of the so-called forensic audit and penal proceedings.

The price-hike is also linked to the massive depreciation of rupee, a process that continues to-date in one way or the other.

It is time the Government reviews its policies and takes genuine action against all those who, in any manner, contributed to the phenomenon of artificial price-hike.

And artificial price-hike can only be checked if unpredictability in respect of electricity and gas tariff as well as prices of POL products ends as even a slight increase in their rates provides justification for fleecing of the consumers by industrialists and businessmen.

 

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