AT a time when the Government was repeatedly assuring the people to take measures to provide them much-needed relief, it has taken a strange move to increase prices of essential commodities by up to 63% at the utility stores to reduce subsidy by Rs15 billion in the remaining period of current fiscal year, but protected the poorest 400,000 consumers from the surge in rates.
The decision was reportedly taken at a high level meeting that was updated on the Prime Minister’s relief package and subsidy being provided on five essential items (pulses, flour, ghee, rice and sugar).
There is no doubt that the Government is facing the worst kind of financial crunch and has to adopt measures to save money but it has obligations towards the ordinary citizens, which must be fulfilled at all costs.
According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), Inflation in the country has soared to 26.6% while in rural areas the reading is as high as 29.5%.
It is rightly pointed out that the constant double-digit inflation has increased the cost of living, with many people facing a choice between running their kitchens or sending children to schools.
It was because of the adverse impact of inflation on the masses that the Finance Minister, on assumption of office, held out an assurance that bringing down prices and stabilizing the exchange rate would be his top most priorities.
However, so far, no visible progress has been made towards that end and instead prices are constantly rising both in respect of goods and services.
USC has always been used to shield the average citizen against abrupt shocks of price-hike and black-marketing and with this in view there have been demands to increase its outlets in different parts of the country.
At a time when it has become a fashion to criticize general subsidies, withdrawal of even limited targeted subsidies through the USC network is a retrogressive step that needs to be reversed.