The story of how the price rise faced by people all over the country has come about seems to be one of incompetence, mismanagement and a sheer unwillingness to take action on time. At a meeting on Tuesday, government ministers are reported to have attacked the bureaucracy for stopping the government from moving in time. But what we see is that the government itself has inflicted a loss of some Rs400 billion on the public as a result of its policies, and its laid-back approach to solving problems.
Right now, inflation in Pakistan, as far as food goes, virtually doubles those of other countries in the same region. This for the country’s already suffering people is a disaster. In fact, it is also true that the story is made worse by the fact that while farmers are being paid less than their counterparts in India and other nations in South Asia, the people who buy are paying much more than the price for wheat and sugar in particular in neighboring countries.
The story is a complicated one but has a great deal to do, in the case of wheat, with the delay in procuring the vital food supply from international markets as is now happening. Currently, Pakistan is purchasing wheat at a price of $292 per tonne. The price shot up after it became known in July, that there was a shortage in Pakistan, and that large amounts would be needed. Before then, the price stood at under $230 per tonne. We are therefore paying much more than would have been the case had we decided to make a purchase of wheat when it became known in April that the targets set for growing the commodity would not be met. Yet the delay continued indefinitely. It is also clear that the story of sugar is as tragic. A huge subsidy was paid out by the Punjab government to try and even out the price. But the subsidy is in effect going to the owners of sugar mills rather than helping the general public which is forced to purchase sugar at a price of Rs110 per kg or in some cases even more. These facts are listed in the sugar commission report itself.
While PM Imran Khan has blamed Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari and the sugar mills owned by them for acting to bring about inflation in prices, the fact is that under the Sharif government the per kg price of sugar barely rose above Rs54 per kg. The amount being paid by people today is unprecedented. The factors that led to the problem need to be examined in more depth by the government itself. The ministers who made decisions need to explain how they acted and why they delayed the matter for so long. This is a vital problem. Food is an essential need for people. They cannot do without it. The government should not get away with inflicting this misery upon them.