New tsunami of price-hike

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PRIME Minister Imran Khan, on Friday, launched yet another initiative with potential to ease lives of millions of farmers, contributing ultimately to increased productivity and self-sufficiency in food.

Addressing the launching ceremony of the Kissan Portal, he pointed out that 90 percent of farmers had small landholdings but their problems never reached those in the power corridors and the move is aimed at giving them voice.

He called for increasing the food production in the country, saying the rising imports of commodities like sugar, wheat, palm oil and lentils put ‘temporary’ pressure on the rupee.

The Kissan Portal is one of the series of the measures that the incumbent Government has taken with the objective of resolving day-to-day problems of the people at their doorstep and to introduce the element of transparency in the working of the Government.

Citizens Portal, different dimensions of Ehsaas programme, plan of targeted subsidies, health cards and clean and green Pakistan programme can surely deliver and hard-pressed people heaved a sigh of relief but all this is proving a transitory gain in the face of countless phases of tsunami that the people of Pakistan have witnessed during the last three years and inability of the Government to address the challenge satisfactorily.

The Prime Minister talked about ‘temporary’ pressure on rupee due to rising food imports by a predominant agrarian country but what about the impact of the recurring shortage of the food items and increase in their prices on the life of the people.

The relief that the Government has provided or is trying to provide to mitigate the impact of the superflation on the ordinary citizen is proving peanuts in the face of reckless increase in prices of almost all items and services.

One can imagine the plight of the people from the fact that just in one day prices of the POL products were jacked up in an unprecedented manner, base tariff of electricity went up by Rs. 1.39 a unit, the price of ghee and edible oil was hiked by hefty Rs. 40 a kilo in the open market and Rs. 49 at the Utility Stores outlets (the price of cooking oil increased by Rs. 110 per litre) in addition to increase in prices of other items in the open market due to various reasons.

What a pity that the price of petrol was increased by Rs. 10.49, HSD Rs. 12.44,Kerosene Rs. 10.95 and Light Diesel Oil (LDO) by Rs. .8.84 per litre in just one go without taking into consideration the absorbing capacity of the people.

To add insult to the injury, Government officials never get tired of drawing comparison of prices of POL products in Pakistan with other countries of the world ignoring their per capita income and capacity to absorb such shocks.

As if this was not enough, the Government also announced a hike in base tariff of electricity from 01 November in line with its commitments with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Minister concerned justified repeated increases in tariff citing circular debt and putting blame, as usual, on the past governments.

This is despite the fact that experts point out the menace of circular debt would continue to haunt the country even if the tariff is doubled but nothing worthwhile was done to plug theft and line losses.

Prices of cylinder gas have already gone up while price of piped gas is also likely to be increased and that too at a time when consumption increases in winter pushing bills sky high.

The decision to impose a ban on provision of new gas connections would add to the misery of the people as there is already a ban on power connections in housing schemes not approved by civic bodies.

Things could yet take another ugly turn if and when the Government decides to withdraw tax exemptions and impose duties on different goods as per its discussions with the IMF.

The Prime Minister has, understandably, given directions for strict action against profiteers and some relief can be expected for the people if federal, provincial governments as well as local administrations across the country remain vigilant but the major factor behind price-hike is frequent increases in the cost of production and this has much to do with the policies of the Government, which need to be reviewed immediately as people are under great pressure.

 

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