Sindh has widest gap between market, official prices of food items

Published April 4, 2021
PBS ranking of provinces in terms of such gaps is aimed at highlighting issues of governance in controlling prices. — APP/File
PBS ranking of provinces in terms of such gaps is aimed at highlighting issues of governance in controlling prices. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Sindh and Balochistan are the two most “expensive” provinces in the country in terms of gap between actual prices of essential food items and the rates fixed for the items by district administrations, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS).

PBS has ranked the provinces in terms of the gap between market prices of food items and those set by district administrations. The exercise is aimed at highlighting issues of governance in controlling the prices.

Put differently, the rankings reflect the performance of various chief secretaries, who serve as the administrative heads of provinces.

Punjab has been placed on top of the rankings with an average gap of 14.41 per cent between market prices of essential food items and the rates fixed by district administrations, followed by 18.7pc in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 21.03pc in Islamabad.

PBS ranking of provinces in terms of such gaps is aimed at highlighting issues of governance in controlling prices

In contrast, the average price gap in Sindh is a whopping 40.32pc followed by a slightly better 32.53pc in the province of Balochistan.

The gaps in prices have been worked out with the help of the Decision Support System for Inflation (DSSI), which reflect the various district administrations’ failure to enforce official prices.

The PBS has developed the DSSI to provide information about prices of essential commodities to the National Price Monitory Committee (NPMC), federal ministries, provincial governments and district administrations.

A source in the finance division told Dawn on Saturday that the NPMC had directed PBS to hold meetings with the chief ministers of Sindh and Balochistan over the “unacceptably high” price gaps in their provinces.

“An official delegation has already held a meeting with chairman of the Sindh Planning and Development Board in this regard,” the source said. The meeting was held on the directives of Sindh’s chief minister.

According to the source, the chief secretary of Balochistan has already arranged a meeting of PBS officials with deputy commissioners to apprise them of the system and how to monitor prices in the province.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s chief minister was also sent a request for a meeting about the system, the source said. However, no response was received immediately from the province.

One of the reasons behind a lower gap in the prices in Punjab is the presence there of an effective mechanism for monitoring. The deputy commissioners in the province also collect data on prices through special branches, and Punjab Urban Unit also provides relevant information.

“Collection of information from multiple sources, including PBS, has enabled district governments in Punjab to effectively monitor prices,” the source said.

Under city-wise rankings, nine cities retained their positions as compared to last week, three cities improved their ranks while five cities were relegated.

The difference between the top and the last city was 75.23 points this week while for the last week this difference was 79.09 points, showing an overall decline.

In Sindh, Karachi retained its top position with a decrease in differential of 4.28 points to 89.1pc this week from 84.82pc between consumer prices and DC rates last week, followed by a decrease in differential of 7.02 points from 40.41pc to 33.39pc in Khuzdar; and Hyderabad, with a decrease of 1.82 points to 27.47pc from 29.29pc.

A decrease of 17.41 points was noted in differential of prices in Sukkur from 39.21pc to 21.8pc. This shows that prices in the city fell in the last week.

In Punjab, the price differential remained much lower, as Bahawalpur maintained its position at the lowest rank with 9.59pc and a slight decrease of 0.42 points from the previous week.

After Bahawalpur, the lowest gap was recorded in Sialkot with decrease of 0.95 points from 11.62pc to 10.67pc, followed by a 0.28-point decline in Lahore to 10.75pc from 11.03pc, 0.55 points increase to 13.43pc from 12.88pc in Sargodha and increase of 0.77 points to 16.62pc in Faisalabad. An increase of 0.11pc to 19.76pc in Gujranwala and 0.06points to 20.47pc was noted in Multan.

However, a decline of 0.87 points to 13.68pc was recorded in Rawalpindi. And an increase of 0.29 points to 21.03pc was reported in the case of federal capital.

In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the gap declined by 0.45 points to 17.99pc in Peshawar and by 0.31 points to 19.41pc in Bannu.

In Balochistan, the gap was reported at 31.68pc in Quetta and at 33.39pc in Khuzdar. In Quetta, a slight increase of 1.6 points was reported, while in Khuzdar a massive decline of 7.02 points was noted in price gaps.

The DSSI provides a ranking mechanism for districts through which the management at the provincial and federal levels can monitor the price variation on a weekly and monthly basis in 17 major cities of the country.

Last week, the ranking of districts showed an almost similar trend, with Karachi on the higher side. This showed that the district administration in the city has yet to enforce DC rates.

After devolution of powers to the provinces, price control falls within the jurisdiction of the four provinces.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2021

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