- Consequences of ill-advised actions?
While the sugarcane crushing season entered its peak in January this year, retail prices of sugar suddenly jacked up, indicating more increase in the price in days to come. By the next month, there were protests in the media all over the country concerning the unusual hike in the sugar price. This was natural as the common man was already feeling the pinch on account of the rise in the price of flour. A section of the media attributed the price hike to the government’s decisions to export both sugar and wheat under the pressure of influential lobbies in the PTI. The PM’s announcement to set up a sugar inquiry commission was dismissed by his critics as a ruse to deflect criticism.
The inquiry commission’s report was made public in May but sugar mill owners sought relief from the Sind High Court and Islamabad High Court. On Tuesday the Supreme Court gave a nod to the federal government to proceed against sugar mill owners in accordance with the recommendations of the sugar inquiry commission.
While the powerful agencies have all along been at the beck and call of the PM and the SC is also allowing the PTI government to take any action considered necessary, nothing stands in the PM’s way to retrieve the promises made to the common man regarding bringing down the prices of sugar and flour. There is however a problem.
Earlier the PM ordered reduction in the petroleum prices only to find the commodity disappearing from the market. The government being forced to raise the price, petrol became immediately available. This gave birth to the perception that the PM is unable to understand the laws of supply and demand that determine prices in a free-market economy. Perhaps he allowed the export of sugar and wheat to earn much-needed dollars, as revealed by Advisor to PM Razak Dawood to the sugar inquiry commission, and when the untimely decision pushed up the prices it started causing political damage for which the PM put the blame on mafias, cartels and hoarders. If prices remain where they are the whole exercise of setting up a commission and promises of action against sugar barons and hoarders would be considered no more than politicking.