THE Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) on Wednesday increased commission for oil companies and their dealers on sale of petroleum products, allowed import of cotton from Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics through Torkham border and approved Rs7.8 billion worth of Ramazan package for Utility Stores.
The piece of good news that consumers would continue to get subsidized items from the USC outlets during coming Ramazan as well was dampened by the decision of the ECC to allow increase in commission for oil companies and dealers, which inevitably means further but irreversible increase in the sale price of POL products.
We have been emphasizing in these columns that any increase in prices of POL products impacts upon all goods and services and, therefore, must be resisted but there is no end to the vicious cycle.
Anyhow, the Government deserves appreciation for approving the Ramazan package despite its financial constraints and the decision would go a long way in mitigating the effect of the price-hike on consumers especially during the holy month when prices go up unchecked mainly due to greed of our trading community and unrealistic increase in profit margin.
This year, the package would be more relevant as prices of all those items that are included in the list of subsidized stuff have already reached beyond the reach of the common man in the open market.
Even the ECC noted that prices of wheat flour, sugar and ghee have gone up significantly in the domestic market.
The USC would subsidise 19 essential items under the relief package, entailing a subsidy of about Rs 7.8 billion to provide relief to the marginalized segments of society during the holy month.
However, much depends on timely and transparent procurement of the items covered under the subsidy so that people get meaningful relief.
This is because prices are jacked up around the holy month and any delay in procurement would result in pocketing of the subsidy amount by producers and wholesalers.