Sugar report

 
May 29, 2020

It has been over a week now that the sugar report was made public. In the meantime, we have had Eid holidays and a plane-crash tragedy so the absence of an immediate action following the report...

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It has been over a week now that the sugar report was made public. In the meantime, we have had Eid holidays and a plane-crash tragedy so the absence of an immediate action following the report could be excused. But now there is a need to move forward from where we left before Eid. The report has clearly and with evidence held millers responsible for a price hike, manipulating the market, underreporting their sales, and committing fraud. The report has also highlighted the tendency of sugar-mill owners to exploit farmers resulting in huge losses for the farmers and undeserved financial gains for the millers. Moreover, the millers have also been found using distorted figures in their accounts, and deliberately created a demand-supply gap and manipulated markets to affect sugar prices. The federal cabinet has already approved the report so there is no hitch to move forward and take steps. Now, there are certain measures that need consideration.

Reportedly, the Sugar Inquiry Commission did not mention the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) at the federal level, whereas provincial governments also failed to take any action against sugar millers. The culprits, as pointed out by the report, earned enormous profits amounting to over Rs40 billion just by the price hike in the domestic markets. The NPMC must also be held accountable for its failure to do its job properly, and the provincial governments, especially in Punjab – as this was the province with the most manipulations and subsidies given – must come clean and explain its position. Punjab CM Usman Buzdar has been repeatedly highlighted as the person responsible for awarding undue subsidies without any convincing justifications. Then comes the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) whose chairman is the prime minister himself.

This consultative forum also did not perform its duty to apprise properly the PM concerning economic matters such as this. In the absence of a full-time finance minister, this forum has failed to fulfil its responsibilities effectively. The ECC is the body that makes executive authorization on key economic policies. Since the ECC granted approval for exports of sugar, its concerned members who made these recommendations must be taken to task. The ECC had also mandated an interprovincial committee to oversee the prices of sugar in the domestic markets and suggest remedial measures if needed, such as reversal of exports in case of escalating prices. But this appears to have never materialized. It is true that the millers garnered the most profits, and primarily they are the ones who should be punished, but the other facilitators and players in this game must not be let off the hook so easily. Responsibilities must be fixed and actions initiated, further delay in action under one pretext or another is not at all acceptable.



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