ISLAMABAD: As prices of essential items witness a twofold increase during the rule of the PML(N)-led coalition, citizens have called out the government and the capital administration over its failure to act against profiteers and hoarders, especially when Ramazan is round the corner.

They also compared the current government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with his tenure as the chief minister of Punjab. During his stint as the CM, magistrates and assistant commissioners kept a strict check on the prices of staples, and raids on wholesale and retail markets on a daily basis were common to curb profiteering.

Similarly, official price lists were issued every day and traders were bound to prominently display these lists in their shops, a resident said. For his ability to use local administration efficiently for price control, Mr Sharif also earned the label of a ‘good administrator’.

However, during Mr Sharif’s stint as the prime minister, traders and shopkeepers are free to fix their own prices with no fear of the administration. A citizen said they were waiting for the premier to swing into action to provide relief to the inflation-hit populace.

Staple foods witness twofold increase as govt looks the other way

A market survey revealed that prices of kitchen items have gone up by 100 per cent since April 2022. Same is the case with vegetables.

A 20kg bag of flour is now being sold at Rs3,500 against its last year’s price of Rs1250; edible oil is being sold at Rs700 per litre while its last year’s price was Rs400 per litre; good quality rice costs Rs380 per kg compared to Rs180/kg during the past year.

Similarly, Channa, Masoor, and Moong pulses are being sold at Rs280/kg, Rs320/kg, and Rs 200/kg, respectively – a significant increase from the previous year. Last year, chickpeas were being sold at Rs280/kg whereas the current price stands at Rs500 per kg.

Besan (grams flour) is being sold at Rs280 per kg against its earlier price of Rs170 per kg; Imlee (tamarind) is now available at Rs400 per kg against its last year’s rate of Rs240 per kg; a pack of Irani dates is being sold at Rs500 against its last year price of Rs200.

Packaged spices sold by Shan Foods also witnessed an increase of Rs50 and now a pack costs Rs190 instead of Rs140. Roh Afza – a basic drink in Ramazan and summer seasons – witnessed an increase of Rs80 whereas a packet of one litre of milk costs Rs230 compared its last year’s price of Rs160. A packet of 1kg detergent is being sold at Rs550 whereas last year its retail price was Rs240.

Even though the current food inflation hardly has no link to the international upward trend of prices, the present regime is repeating the same mistake which the PTI government had committed during its tenure — not laying hands on the local market players, a shopper told Dawn.

Has someone tied the hands of the PM against these profiteers, the person quipped. “Why the price control committees comprising representatives of civil society and government officials are dormant,” he asked.

“Every time you go to the market to purchase loose milk, you find an increase of Rs10-20; it is being sold at Rs150 per kg,” a retired government servant echoed the same concerns. “Same is the case with poultry, beef, and mutton – the price of these essentials have gone beyond the reach of even the upper middle class,” Saeed Ansari added.

Imran Ali, who runs a private business, said that after an increase Rs 100 per kg in the past couple of months, rice was being sold at Rs380 per kg.

A senior official in the government told Dawn that it was the responsibility of the provincial government to control the price hike. “The federal government cannot control prices. It is the job of the provincial government because they have mechanisms in place to check the prices of daily use items and take actions against violators,” he added.

Published in Dawn, March 13th, 2023

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