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February 20, 2020

Govt pins price control responsibility on provinces


February 20, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Government has passed the buck for controlling runaway prices to provinces, justifying its move as legal under 18th amendment into the constitution that devolved price control authority to the federating units.

Officials said prices of essential items are increasing in the markets around the country and causing unrest in the public, but it must also be remembered that after devolution the function of price control falls under the domain of the provinces. In 2010, the 18th constitutional amendment devolved certain authorities to provinces.

“They must accept this responsibility and make efforts to appease the masses,” Secretary Finance Naveed Kamran Baloch said, addressing a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee.

“As far as the federal government is concerned, the issue is being taken with utmost importance as the Prime Minister is particularly interested in reducing the burden on the common man which is increasing due to increase in prices.”

Presiding over the meeting, Baloch said there will be accountability for all those who are not taking the appropriate action keeping in view the distress the general public is enduring due to increase in the prices, as the government is mindful of the welfare of the people. The follow-up meeting is scheduled to be held next week.

The meeting was told that the local governments should be ready and prepared to take additional measures during Ramazan to save masses from price hike.

“If any help is required from the federal government, the federal government shall be ready to facilitate,” the secretary finance said in a statement. “Provinces should share information as to which items other than the essential items, they think, add to inflation and how the government can help in coping with the scarcity. They should also share and guide the federal government and other provincial governments that how network of sasta bazaars will help to reduce inflationary pressures on the common man.”

It was told that hoarding for profiteering should be checked at every level and every stage and necessary action under the law should be taken against profiteers and hoarders. The local government heads should ensure display of price lists and its applicability. “Smuggling of essential food items should be dealt with utmost severity.”

The meeting was told that the Prime Minister Imran Khan is personally engaging the provincial chief secretaries twice a week to ensure swift action on price control. The government also announced Rs15 billion worth of subsidy to utility stores corporation and there are suggestions to open more such stores in various parts of the country where they are needed.

The secretary said the federal government is taking measures to control smuggling of essential food items.

Secretary National Food Security and Research Hashim Popalzai said the food ministry is preparing proposals to control the deficiency of essential items. The proposals are to be approved by the Economic Coordination Committee of the cabinet. “The federal government is doing everything possible in its domain,” he said.

The meeting was told inflation increased around 14.6 percent in January when compared to same period last year. However, weekly price indicator, sensitive price index (SPI), has been showing a declining trend during the past five weeks.

SPI fell 0.38 for the week that ended on 13 February, 2020. The prices of 13 items decreased and 19 remained stable in the past week. Wheat was the cheapest Rs809 per 20 kilograms in Punjab and highest Rs1,058/20kg in Sindh.

Senior representatives of the provincial governments, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, food and commerce ministries, utility stores corporation, Pakistan Customs and cabinet division attended the meeting.