ISLAMABAD: While admitting that prices of essential items are increasing, the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) has held the provincial governments responsible for the prevailing price hike and asked them to accept responsibility for it.
The committee headed by Finance Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch observed at its meeting that rising prices of essential items in the market were causing unrest among the public. This was the second consecutive meeting on prices held in the finance division.
“It must also be remembered that after devolution the function of price control falls under the domain of the provinces,” Mr Baloch told the meeting. “The provinces must accept this responsibility and make efforts to appease the masses,” he said.
Senior representatives of the provincial governments, Islamabad Capital Territory Administration, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, ministries of commerce and food security, Utility Stores Corporation, customs and cabinet division attended the meeting.
Local govts told to ensure essential items are sold at controlled rates in Ramazan
An official statement issued after the meeting quoted the finance secretary as saying that the local governments should be ready and prepared to take additional measures during Ramazan to save masses from price hike. “If any help is required from the federal government, it will be ready to facilitate.”
As per decisions made in the meeting, the provinces are to share information as to which items other than essential commodities, they think, add to inflation and how the federal government can help in coping with shortage of these items. Each provincial government is also to guide the federal government and other provincial administrations how network of Sasta bazaars will help in reducing inflationary pressures on the common man.
The provinces were asked to check hoarding at every level and every stage and take necessary action under the law against profiteers and hoarders. The heads of local government should ensure display of price lists at shops.
The meeting said that smuggling of essential food items should be dealt with utmost severity.
As far as the federal government was concerned, the finance secretary said, the issue was being taken up with utmost importance as the prime minister was particularly interested in reducing the burden on the common man which was increasing due to increase in prices.
The PM was personally engaging the provincial chief secretaries twice a week to ensure swift action, he said.
According to Mr Baloch, the federal government has also given Rs15 billion subsidy to the Utility Stores Corporation and there is a suggestion to open more stores in various parts of the country where they are needed.
The federal government is also taking measures to control smuggling of essential food items. The Ministry of National Food Security and Research is preparing proposals to be approved by the Economic Coordination Committee that will help in controlling shortage of essential items.
The finance secretary said: “There will be accountability for all those who are not taking the appropriate action keeping in view the distress the general public is enduring due to increase in the prices, as the government is mindful of the welfare of the people.”
The committee also decided to hold a follow-up meeting next week.
Data on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) was presented by the economic adviser’s wing at the finance division with input from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. It was noted that inflation had increased by around 14.6 per cent in January when compared to the same period last year. A noteworthy aspect being observed is that during the past five weeks the SPI was showing a declining trend.
In the week ending on Feb 13, the SPI was -0.38pc. The prices of 13 items decreased and those of 19 remained stable in the past week. It was observed that wheat was the cheapest in Punjab and costliest in Sindh (Rs809 per 20kg and Rs1,058 per 20kg, respectively).
Published in Dawn, February 20th, 2020