The menace of artificial inflation
By: Abrar Ahsan
Holy month of Ramzan is of prime importance for Muslims around the world when they observe fast to seek blessings of Allah Almighty. As special preparations are made for Sehr and Iftar during this month so importance of food items and daily usage commodities increase by manifold. The needy are especially taken care of and authorities ensure that prices of essential items do not spike. Government machinery ramps up special preparations couple of months before Ramzan to facilitate the public.
Muslim nations across the globe give special incentives during Ramzan so that all and sundry can fast by consuming essential items. Efforts are made to make sure all food items are available at cheaper rates. Special initiatives such as low cost of staples, discounts and markups are offered on various commodities. Even European countries, U.S. and Canada set up special shelves in super stores with tag of ‘Ramzan special offers’ to facilitate Muslim community.
However, this trend reverses when it comes to Pakistan. Concept of ‘Artificial Inflation’ comes into play which puts essential goods out of reach. Prices of staples are hiked and no cuts are offered which makes it burdensome for the lower strata of society to observe Ramzan in its true essence and spirit. Even, government does not refrain from raising petrol and electricity prices at the onset of Ramzan which adds to the woes of common man. Rise in fuel cost not only makes it difficult to commute, but also causes inflation as heavy cost is incurred on transportation of raw materials.
Utility stores have been formed by the government where essential items are available at low cost as compared to superstores. Incumbent government has launched Rs. 2 billion Ramzan package to provide essential goods at cheaper rates on utility stores. Despite these measures, items are not easily available on the shelves of Utility stores. In Pakistan, hoarding takes stride during Ramazan which results in shortage of stock on the shelves of utility stores. Dearth of food items such as flour, sugar results into long queues outside stores and makes people wait in scorching heat during Ramzan.
Underlying facts on scarce food supply in stores show an ignominious collusion between factory owners and provincial, district administration officials. Vendors selling fruits and vegetables in Ramzan Bazaars hold factory, mill owners responsible for increase in prices. Corruption takes effect as factory owners halt supply of products in market and sell them at higher rates to retailers. Vendors are of the view that factory owners sell products such as wheat and sugar at higher rates for their personal gains making it difficult for us to sell products in accordance with district administration’s rate list.
Retailers in market say magistrates, commissioners and deputy commissioners do not dare to confront potent factory owners and expose their ill practices. Mill owners try their best to woo administrators by offering bribes and lucrative deals, which forces them to protect their interests. Such flawed practices not only jeopardize the whole system of demand and supply, but also deprives public of due rights.
Every year, high-ups make humongous promises to facilitate public in Ramzan but, eventually their hollow slogans turn out to be hoax. Government ministers appear on media and voice their intent to take action against hoarders. But ground reality presents a bleak picture of events. Hoarding lingers on in Ramzan with hardly any check and balance mechanism. Chief Minister and cabinet members visit Ramzan bazaars for the sake of publicity and photo session. Their precious visits rarely help to ease sufferings of common man.
Hence, punitive actions are needed against all rogue elements who are directly or indirectly involved to curb artificial inflation. Its recurrence at the time of Ramzan shows systematic changes are required to abolish the culture of hoarding and corruption.