Provincial govts advised to expand network of Sasta Bazaar – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: The National Committee for Price Monitoring (NPMC) on Friday suggested that provincial governments and the administration of the Islamabad Capital Territory expand the network of the Sasta Bazaar to ensure the availability of essential foods at lower prices for a larger population wide.

The committee made the recommendation after noting that the prices of essential goods were significantly lower in the Sasta bazaars compared to the open market, which justified the opening of such bazaars throughout the country to benefit consumers of the classes Low and medium.

The meeting chaired by the Special Secretary of Finance, Omar Hamid Khan, also advised provincial governments to ensure that the quality of essential items is not compromised in these bazaars to benefit the common man.

Inflation entered double digits in August and increased to 10.49 percent, the largest increase in five years and 10 months. The last time inflation entered the double digits was in November 2013, when it was recorded at 10.9pc.

In this context, the committee noted that inflationary pressures were affecting the purchasing power of middle and lower class people. Therefore, vigilant monitoring of the prices of food and non-food items at the district level and better coordination between the provinces are essential to ensure the provision of essential foods at affordable prices.

The price oversight body recommends proactive measures to streamline profit margins at the retail / wholesale level

The NPMC discussed the increase in prices of daily and non-food items such as wheat, rice, chicken, onions, white lentils, gram pulse, divided red lentils, meat, milk powder, cooking oil, vegetable ghee, sugar, gas charges, motor fuel, transportation services, footwear, construction salaries, medical fees, etc.

The committee discussed the main reasons for the increase in the prices of these items and the possibilities of verifying anti-competitive practices, undue price increases and the disparity of prices in the country.

He noted that the profit margin at the wholesale and retail level was very high and advised provincial governments to take proactive measures to rationalize undue profit margins.

At the same time, he recommended that the Pakistan Competition Commission (CCP) take proactive measures to control undue profits and eliminate cartelization practices and control monopolistic practices so that small businesses can be encouraged to improve their productivity.

The NPMC ordered the Ministry of National Food Security and Research to constitute a panel composed of representatives from all relevant provinces and stakeholders to review the framework of recommendations prepared by the PCC regarding price control and the supply of essential foods and implement Recommendations as soon as possible.

The Punjab government was instructed to share its application of online market complaints and its repair mechanism with other provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT).

The special secretary said the finance division promised to take effective fiscal measures to control inflationary pressures and provide relief to the public.

The meeting also stressed the need for effective use of statistical data for planning and decision-making to mitigate inflationary pressures and eliminate price disparities in Islamabad and between provinces. The ICT administration was also instructed to take strict measures to ensure the applicability of the price list in the federal area and ensure the quality of essential items in the market.

The special secretary emphasized that while price controls are discussed, supply side factors must also be taken into account, since unless the availability of sufficient products is not addressed, prices may continue to fluctuate in the markets.

The meeting was informed that the National Consumer Price Index (CPI), used to measure inflation on a new basis, for August 2019 increased by 10.49 percent compared to August 2018. The urban CPI was recorded in 10.64 pcs and the rural CPI in 10.27pc, respectively. .

For the first time in the country's history, the government began measuring rural inflation as of August this year.

The meeting was also informed that the Sensitive Price Indicator), which monitors the prices of 53 essential items weekly, registered a decrease of 0.18pc in the week ending August 29, 2019. The prices of 16 items increased, 12 articles decreased and 25 articles remained unchanged.

The NPMC meeting was held to discuss the prices of essential foods and non-food items and the supply stock of essential items.

The meeting was attended by representatives of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, ICT, ministries of industry, law and justice, trade, national food security and research, planning, development and reform and interprovincial coordination, CCP, Statistical Office, Utility Stores Corporation and Federal Board of Revenue.

Posted in Dawn, September 7, 2019



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