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October 18, 2020

Food inflation beyond limit

Business

October 18, 2020

LAHORE: Masses are fed up with the bad governance of the present government, and firmly believe the government should start taking concrete measures to provide some relief to the people instead of accusing the successive governments of all the ills being faced by the country.

Patience of the common man has exhausted, as lollypops of Ehsaas programme, youth loans and other public appeasing measures serve a fraction of the population, while the majority continues to face hunger, as the food prices continue to increase with each passing day.

The promise of job creation never materialised. In fact, around two million workers have lost their jobs. Those still sticking to their fate. The future is uncertain. The most depressing reality is that the present government has failed to nab the hoarders, smugglers and profiteers, even though the government’s own reports pointed finger on some of the culprits that are sitting within its ranks.

Instead the government is trying to silence its critics through the National Accountability Bureau and the Federal Investigation Agency. The case of Mir Shakeel Ur Rehman is a glaring example, who is in custody for over 219 days on a petty bailable charge. The concocted case dates to 35 years ago. Numerous others are in lockup, as the NAB has not presented their challans in the NAB courts.

When the PTI government assumed power its well organised propaganda convinced the public that past rulers were corrupt to the core. As the time passed by people started realising that it is not the accountability, but the vindictiveness of the regime that targeted anyone who opposed it. Some glaring evidences of misconduct, loot and thuggery were ignored when the accused sided with the ruling party. The regime managed to hoodwink the masses for almost 18 months passing on blame of economic meltdown to past regimes. However, people started realising the hollowness of the government’s claim.

Governments world over are very sensitive to increase in the rates of edibles, whereas in Pakistan, most of the edibles are domestically produced. It includes wheat, rice, sugarcane, milk, mutton, beef, poultry, fruits and vegetables. Edible oil is the major commodity that we must import. When the rupee value massively declined against the dollar the increase in the rates of edible oil was understandable. Even in this case, the government could have lowered or abolished its levies on edible oil to keep the prices stable. It would have not cost Rs20 billion that this government released to stabilise the capital market (in other words to save big brokers from devastation).

For all other commodities, the state should have kept an eye on hoarders, manipulators to ensure sustainable supplies in the market (some of the hoarders and manipulators were identified in the wheat and sugar reports).

The state instead looked the other way. We saw wheat prices soaring when the harvest (enough to feed the nation till next crop) was available. Today, people are paying almost 60 percent higher price of the commodity than last year. The thuggery of sugar barons is well known to all. They exploit farmers in many ways, including breaking the law by not paying them on time for which they can face jail terms.

The sugar was available in the open market at Rs55/kg when this government allowed export of a million-ton sugar with subsidy. Now, the sugar is available at a minimum of Rs90/kg to Rs110/kg in the open market. No sugar miller has been prosecuted so far.

It seems the state has lost its grip on the markets. Now, hoarding is a norm. For hoarding sugar and wheat, you need a lot of capital. The hoarders are influential, as well, but in case of vegetables, the cash required is much less. The second tier of hoarders have emerged in vegetables. The farmers part with their produce at very low rates. The hoarders then join hands to control the supply of each vegetable to enhance the rates. It is because of this manipulation that prices of all vegetables have touched historic high.

Tomatoes are available at Rs200/kg, onion Rs70/kg, potatoes Rs80 to Rs100/kg. The prices of almost all vegetables are so high that it is not possible for a lower middle case family to afford them. The poor cannot even dream of buying these vegetables. All this is due to bad governance of the present regime. Food prices are not the priority of this government. It is good at vindictive accountability in which it is excelling. The government is satisfied that the car sales are up and is not bothered about the increase in hunger.