THE rising petroleum and edible oil prices have been hitting people hard across the developing and under-developed world. The prices of petroleum products have gone up by 200-300 per cent in recent weeks. Likewise, there has been a sharp surge in palm oil prices in the international market, pushing the manufacturers to increase the prices of cooking oil and ghee.

Although palm oil prices have been fluctuating in the world market and the federal government has given relief in taxes as well, nothing has convinced the manufacturers to pass on at least some portion of the relief to the consumers. They have been actively increasing prices along with those of cooking oil and ghee.

In the last few months, prices of cooking oil and ghee rose exorbitantly owing to short supply of the raw material. It is now being sold at more than Rs600 a litre. Cooking oil and ghee smuggled from Iran was available at much lower rates in the local market and that should have made the authorities realise the extent of extortion being executed by the manufacturers.

The prices of essential items, including flour, rice, milk, vegetables and fruit, besides transport fares, have increased manifold, leaving people depressed and struggling to make ends meet.

The Russia-Ukraine war must come to an end immediately and there should be conflict resolution through dialogue because this war has led to hyper-inflation and increase in the misery of the poor.

On the larger scale, we need some global body to look into the practices of the Oil Producing Exporting Countries (Opec) and the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries (CPOPC) which have crushed the poor and the economy of the poor countries.

I wonder if the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has any jurisdiction in this regard. In case it does not have it, there should be some mechanism to enable it

to look into this grave situation and save the poor from the clutches of global cartels dealing with petroleum and palm oil. They are minting billions of dollars which is akin to sucking the blood of billions of poor people across the globe.

In the absence of such a mechanism, the cartels will continue to add to the global poverty numbers; and that being so, what will be the point of any development policy by any country or organisation?

Anwar Hussain
Karachi

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2022

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