Ramazan approaches

This Ramazan demands that special attention is paid to price gouging

Ramazan is coming, as it does every year. However, this year it arrives at a time when post-flood difficulties are worsened by the inflationary spiral. Though the government has taken a number of tough decisions which have had the effect of increasing prices even more, the country is still in the throes of trying for a revival of its IMF programme. One of the difficulties of Ramazan is that the sacred month seems to fill wholesalers and retailers with the most blatant price-gouging instincts. Keeping a check on items of daily use is the job of the provincial governments, and it is perhaps unfortunate for the consumer that two of the provinces are under caretaker governments whose primary task is to hold provincial elections. Considering their lack of enthusiasm about performing this primary duty, it might be asking too much to expect them to show much more vigour in performing this task.

The federal government faces elections, and a poor showing after Ramazan. Therefore it well have to ginger up the caretaker governments in KP and Punjab, and the PPP and BAP governments in Sindh and Balochistan. The economic crisis is likely to put a damper on the little luxuries at sehr and iftar, as housewives try to square the equation of shrinking incomes (or no incomes, as layoffs keep on happening, and factories keep on closing). Retailers also look to Ramazan, and Eid shopping, as the big event of the year, but again, the lack of purchasing power might place a damper on this. That will also place a deeper drag on manufacturers’ orders, as retailers try to sell off their inventory. The only positive for retailers is that the Eid shopping will coincide with the transition to summer, with new weather-appropriate clothing having to be bought.

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However, Eid shopping is not really an area where governments can go. Its negotiations with the IMF must also include making its interlocutors aware that imposing further hardship at this time, let alone providing appropriate subsidies, will not just have political consequences, but may be unpredictable. After all, people take religious matters very seriously. This is another reason why the government should take the matter seriously. There have been at least two meetings chaired by the PM about the Ramazan package, but only one was the national (the other was limited to Islamabad), and produced only pious wishes, but nothing concrete. Firm decisions are needed, and soon, with Ramazan only days away.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].


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