To control food prices

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WHILST the budget 2021-22 is mostly being hailed as business friendly and growth oriented, it also envisages measures to check the prices of essential commodities- which indeed is imperative to provide much needed relief to the common man.

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said the government will introduce commodity warehousing, storage facilities and farm-to-market road connectivity so that farmers can avoid getting fleeced by middlemen and aarthis and instead gain direct access to wholesale markets where they can sell their crops. Indeed these steps will directly benefit the growers.

Extending facilitation to the farmers indeed is imperative to bolster the productivity of agriculture sector and achieve complete self reliance.

Secondly, and more drastically, the Finance Minister announced to reintroduce the administrative price control mechanisms.

In the past, the Deputy Commissioners had also served as District Magistrates, while an Assistant Commissioner’s job was to act as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate reported to by several Assistant Commissioners.

District Magistrates had the authority to oversee criminal cases, except for those that involved the death penalty or life imprisonment.

Two police stations were monitored by each Magistrate. However, these authorities were stripped away and redistributed between the police, the courts and the executive during Musharraf’s era.

This created a vacuum where the price control mechanism weakened overtime. Resultantly, in some cases, some elements started profiting from uncurbed prices and manipulating the market at the cost of the public’s helplessness.

Restoring this price control mechanism is a welcome step in the right direction. Dealing sternly with these profiteers and hoarders is only possible through magistracy system and this will go a long way in maintaining stability in the prices.

Having said so, it will be next to impossible to bring the prices of essential commodities to the previous level.

The impact of price hike, however, can be reduced to a great extent by enhancing the purchasing power of the people. Most affected by the price hike is the salaried class.

A ten per cent increase in salaries and pensions have been given but we understand this is not enough and the government must consider providing a genuine relief to this segment of the society.

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