Relief measures

By Mansoor Ahmad
April 18, 2024
A vendor is seen busy making traditional bread (Naan) at a tandoor in Lahore. — APP/File

LAHORE: Things move far too slowly compared to the tall promises made by the rulers. Most of the decisions are still made on whims rather than on sound research, which explains the move to consumers and ensures consumer resistance.


Take, for instance, the directive of the Chief Minister of Punjab to lower the rate of roti to Rs16 from Rs20. No homework was done on how to implement this directive, resulting in roti still being sold at most places at Rs20. There is strong resistance from the producers. Few visits to some roti outlets by the CM for publicity purposes do not mean that the directive has been imposed. When the prices remain unchanged in Lahore, where administrative force is strong, how can we expect lower prices elsewhere in Punjab?

Without doubting the sincerity of the Punjab government to provide relief to the common man, it must be pointed out that the rates of any item cannot be controlled through executive order. The government should first engage the stakeholders involved in the process. The planners must have calculated, for instance, in the case of roti, the inputs involved. In roti, the main input is wheat flour (atta), the rent of premises where roti(s) are produced, the cost of the fuel (which in most cases is LPG), and at least two men labor.

The decline in roti rates was announced based on a decline in atta rates by Rs500 per 10 kg bag. The government should have discussed the issue with roti producers and convinced them that the directive is based on logic, as other input costs remained the same. The decrease in atta price was equivalent to Rs50 per kg.

The roti producers (nanbai), as per government instruction, make 8.33 roti(s) from one kg of atta (one kg is equivalent to 1000 grams, and divided by 120 grams, the net result is 8.33). Dividing 8.33 roti(s) by Rs50 reveals that the cost of each roti would reduce by Rs6, and the government has ordered a reduction of Rs40 per roti only. This point should have been publicized as well. Moreover, the government should have provided some time to the producers to consume the atta stocks bought at higher rates. A week after the reduction in atta rates, the order should have been imposed with full force. The price analysis by the government would have created awareness among consumers, who would willingly place their complaints with officials.

Currently, as the public was not made aware of ground realities, consumers tend to sympathize with roti producers and buy roti without complaining. The rulers must engage consumers intelligently by explaining in detail the justification of their directive.

Our rulers must realize that the announcement of genuine relief to the masses must not be restricted to photo sessions, but they ought to engage the masses and explain to them the logic of the relief. The consumers, after being convinced of the justification of the directive, would then fight for their rights and confront those charging higher rates. There should be no directive for changes in rates without going into the details that warrant decline.