- Commendable efforts but more needs to be done
The unprecedented hike in the prices of perishable food items like tomatoes, onions and other vegetables followed by phenomenal increase in the prices of sugar, flour, ghee and pulses has undoubtedly made the life of the poorer sections of the society miserable beyond imagination. The plight of the people could be judged from the fact that sixty percent Pakistanis ended up spending more than sixty percent of their incomes on food items leaving very little for their other needs. What transpired during the last sixteen months was, to some extent, attributable to the inevitable steps that the government had to take to revive the economy which was in complete shambles when the PTI government was installed but the situation was further aggravated by hoarders, profiteers, middlemen and the mafias which manipulated the markets to their unjustified advantage.
Unfortunately we are a society with a very low level of morality and societal solidarity. It is common knowledge that the prices of food items and vegetables suddenly go up during the month of Ramadan due to the reason that the unscrupulous businessmen, middlemen, hoarders and mafias within the society try to mint money, not caring about the sanctity of the holy month, whereas against this, on the eve of X-Mas the prices are drastically reduced in the western countries.
Nevertheless, the onus of saving the masses from the machinations of these unscrupulous elements and providing relief to them lies with the government. Prime Minister Iman Khan was right on money when while presiding a meeting regarding hike in the prices of commodities including sugar, flour, cooking oil and pulses on Saturday he said that the government had no right to rule if the people were not given relief. He also said that the government would go to any extent to check price hikes making sure that the prices of flour, sugar, ghee and pulses were brought down. He also ordered deduction of funds from other sectors to help those having no purchasing power. Later in a tweet he said “I understand the difficulties, ordinary people including salaries class are confronting and have decided, come what may, my government will be announcing various measures that will be taken to reduce prices of basic food items for the common man in the cabinet meeting on Tuesday” He also revealed that relevant government agencies had begun an in-depth probe into the flour and sugar price hike and those found involved would face punishment. Reportedly with a view to bringing the prices of sugar down by ensuring adequate supply in the market, the Prime Minister has also approved a summary for halting the export of 350,000 tons of sugar besides allowing the import of 300,000 tons of sugar through private sector. A vigorous campaign against the hoarders has also been launched.
It is common knowledge that the prices of food items and vegetables suddenly go up during the month of Ramadan due to the reason that the unscrupulous businessmen, middlemen, hoarders and mafias within the society try to mint money, not caring about the sanctity of the holy month, whereas against this, on the eve of X-Mas the prices are drastically reduced in the western countries.
Honestly speaking, keeping check on the prices and checking unethical and illegal practices is the responsibility of the provincial governments and the district administrations. The accentuation of the present price spiral for other than the justifiable economic factors represented their failure in assessing the emerging situation and taking timely measures to protect the masses against the debilitating impact of unprecedented increase in the prices of food items and perishable commodities.
Nevertheless, the intervention by the federal government to rectify the situation, particularly by the Prime Minister is a welcome initiative and indicates his sensitivity to the difficulties of the poorer sections of the society. Hopefully as a result of the steps that are likely to be taken within the next few days, as indicated by the Prime Minister, the prices of food items would come down providing much needed relief to the poor people.
The federal government justifiably has been focusing more on economy and now after having gone through a successful year of stabilization of economy, has rightly shifted its attention to providing relief to salaried and low and middle income groups who have been bearing the brunt of the burgeoning inflation in the country due to the combined effect of the foregoing factors. Last month the government announced Rs7 billion subsidies on 1000 items available at 4000 outlets of the Utility Stores Corporation throughout the country. The announced package envisaged a subsidy of RS.50-60 on 20-Kg flour bag, Rs.30-40 on one kg of ghee and Rs.20-30 on per Kg of rice, which are the basic food items.
It was quite a substantial relief for the poor masses. To make sure that this relief was not abused by some unscrupulous elements the government also made it obligatory for the consumers to present their ID cards while making purchases from the Utility Store outlet. This makes it convenient for the consumers to buy their monthly ration in one go and nobody would be able to abuse the system due to biometric record of purchasers with Utility Stores. The relief package, apart from providing relief to the targeted groups, was also designed to contribute towards stabilization of prices in the open market.
It is an undeniable fact that the PTI government under the stewardship of Prime Minister Imran Khan has shown remarkable concern for the less privileged sections of the society. In spite of economic difficulties it took appreciable step towards poverty alleviation and providing relief to the people. Ehsas programme and the initiatives taken under its umbrella like distribution of health and ration cards, Kamyab Jawan, Hunarman Jawan and the launch of Ehsas Kafalt card on 31st January under which Rs.2000 monthly cash payments will be made to seven million women are an irrefutable testimony of the concern of the PTI government for ameliorating the lot of the poor. They will not only help in alleviation of poverty but would also generate tremendous economic activity in the country. The PTI government, particularly, the Prime Minister has exhibited unruffled determination and commitment to provide relief to the poor masses. Therefore the credit must be given where it lies.