On top of spiraling inflation and almost daily increase in prices of daily consumables, ‘self-created’ increases by manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers and service providers have pushed people deeper into financial stress and made their lives more miserable.
On the other hand, the government seems to be taking cosmetic measures to control prices in the absence of a price and profit assessment and control mechanism, leading to record-high prices of commodities that are unbearable for the common man.
“Honestly, there is no mechanism or system. However, Shahzad Cheema, secretary of the Lahore Market Committee, said that price hikes of all commodities should be checked and controlled, except the prices of fruits, vegetables, poultry etc., which depend on demand and supply. wake up.
He said price control magistrates in districts were restricted from implementing officially notified prices by retailers on the pretext of import of pulses and other commodities, inflation, dollar exchange rate, POL prices on the pretext of price hike and other factors. From wholesalers, manufacturers etc., do not heed the instructions of the authorities and charge according to their wishes.
“It is true that people are going through a bad wave of price hike. But it is also true that the self-created price hike (or price gouging) on the part of manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers has added to the misery of the common man,” he lamented.
Price gouging is a situation where businesses take advantage of a crisis to charge exorbitant prices for basic necessities – selling goods significantly above their normal price.
According to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, the inflation rate rose to an unprecedented 21.32 percent, the highest in nearly 14 years. As of April, the rate was 14.6%.
“I have not seen any increase in daily prices. A couple of days ago I bought cooking oil at Rs540 per litre. But today (Friday) I bought it for Rs 580 from a shop near my house,’ said Farooq, a customer of a grocery shop, who burst into tears. wake up. “When I asked shopkeepers, they blamed the hike in POL prices and other issues for the new price.”
He cited the exorbitant prices of various items including flour (especially chakki atta), rice, pulses and edibles on the pretext of rising petrol prices in the last couple of months.
“You can check the prices of fruits and vegetables which are increasing daily on the pretext of transportation charges due to increased POL prices. Another factor behind this self-created price hike is to hoard various commodities to create artificial scarcity in the open market to make more profit,” Farooq explained.
The Lahore Deputy Commissioner and Industries Department Secretary were not available for comments, but a spokesperson of the Lahore district administration, dispelled the impression, asserting that a price control system was in place in the districts.
“The District Price Control Committee, whenever necessary, revises and informs the prices of various commodities after holding discussions with representatives of consumers, traders, shopkeepers and manufacturers. It decides and notifies rates according to increase in POL prices and other factors like inflation,” he explained, adding that the notified rates were implemented by the price control magistrates in letter and spirit.
However, he admitted that there was no dedicated team of experts within the district administration to develop a mechanism to carry out this work. “But our magistrates are effectively controlling prices,” he insisted.
On the one hand, while prices continue to sky-rocket, restrictions on trading hours in open markets have provided shopkeepers with an opportunity to poach customers and charge exorbitant prices.
Some shops, especially drinks and cigarette corners and kirana shops, operate (with their shutters fully down or half closed) even after the 9 pm restriction on business hours in collaboration with the police or district administration.
“Yesterday I went to a shop where its shutters were half closed. I bought sandwich bread for Rs200 — Rs20 more than the actual price. When I asked, the shopkeeper told me that it was either bought or about to close. I had no choice but to repent,” said Arsalan, a customer wake up.
Published in Dawn on July 2, 2022