Ra­mazan prices

The Pak Banker - - FRONT PAGE -

As per the his­tor­i­cal pat­tern, the prices of es­sen­tial items be­gin to inch up­wards around two weeks be­fore Ra­mazan. It is un­for­tu­nate that the holy month is seen by some un­scrupu­lous traders as an op­por­tu­nity for mak­ing un­due prof­its. All over the coun­try, in an­tic­i­pa­tion of and dur­ing the pe­riod of fast­ing, prices of daily es­sen­tials are raised in order to fleece a help­less pub­lic. Whether it is fruit, veg­eta­bles, meat or other sta­ple com­modi­ties, un­jus­ti­fi­able price hikes seem to peak around the time of Eid.

When the holy month starts, the gov­ern­ment tries to con­trol prices through ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports, last week au­thor­i­ties in Karachi held a spe­cial meet­ing to for­mu­late a strat­egy to con­tain prof­i­teer­ing dur­ing Ra­mazan. At the meet­ing, it was de­cided that stern ac­tion would be taken against all those in­volved in mak­ing un­fair prof­its. Price con­trol bod­ies were asked to stay vig­i­lant in their re­spec­tive ar­eas and con­duct raids reg­u­larly to check whether of­fi­cial price lists were be­ing ob­served or not by the shop­keep­ers.

But ex­pe­ri­ence shows that such ex­er­cises are a shot in the dark. Delayed and half hearted ad­min­is­tra­tive mea­sures re­main in­ef­fec­tive as in­creased rates do not come down to pre-Ra­mazan lev­els. Ide­ally, the ad­min­is­tra­tive steps for price con­trol should con­tinue in full gear through­out the year, so that no one can dare cre­ate an ar­ti­fi­cial price hike on spe­cial oc­ca­sions. If this is not pos­si­ble for any rea­son, au­thor­i­ties should at least go for strict im­ple­men­ta­tion of the price con­trol mech­a­nism by is­su­ing ap­proved rate lists at least one month be­fore, so that no ar­ti­fi­cial price hike af­fects the peo­ple in the holy month.

In the given sit­u­a­tion, the role of price con­trol of­fi­cials is cru­cial. They can stop over­charg­ing by tak­ing strong pe­nal ac­tion against price sharks, hoard­ers and black mar­keters. They should es­pe­cially come down hard on those who cre­ate ar­ti­fi­cial short­ages. In Pun­jab, a large num­ber of Ra­mazan bazaars have been es­tab­lished for pro­vi­sion of es­sen­tial items at dis­counted rates. Fair price shops have also been set up in each bazaar where items, in­clud­ing fruits, veg­eta­bles, pulses, dates and rice, are avail­able at whole­sale rates. But me­dia re­ports show that few shop­keep­ers ob­serve the of­fi­cial price list. Price mag­is­trates are sup­posed to con­duct price check­ing raids but they are not gen­er­ally seen in ac­tion. On way to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion is to en­sure the prom­i­nent display of price lists at all mar­kets and shop­ping ar­eas which should be mon­i­tored reg­u­larly by elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Along with ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion, ar­range­ments should also be made to aug­ment the sup­ply of the edi­ble items in high de­mand dur­ing Ra­mazan.

Mar­ket ma­nip­u­la­tion is a grow­ing men­ace in the coun­try. Prices of es­sen­tial items as well as other goods are jacked up reg­u­larly by creat­ing ar­ti­fi­cial short­ages. It is a real and press­ing prob­lem - one that af­fects the av­er­age ci­ti­zen on a daily ba­sis. Plans are made to fight hoard­ing and price shark­ing, but they are hardly im­ple­mented. The re­al­ity is that for the com­mon cit­i­zens badly hit by spi­ralling com­mod­ity prices, in­fla­tion, and the in­ac­ces­si­bil­ity of goods, the lat­est rise in food-re­lated ex­pen­di­tures dur­ing Ra­mazan is like the last straw on the camel's back. In these cir­cum­stances, greater ef­forts need to be made to pro­vide some re­lief to a ha­rassed pub­lic. This is a se­ri­ous is­sue and it calls for ur­gent at­ten­tion from the au­thor­i­ties con­cerned.

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