June 5, 2011
The Pakistan Times,
Sir, The cost of living is the only thing that seems to defy the law of gravitation; it keeps going up without ever coming down. In the language of economics, it is called inflation. We are making more and more rupees, but less and less money with real purchasing power. Our wallets are getting bigger and shopping bags are getting smaller. Something that cost fifty rupees a few years ago now costs sixty rupees to repair. Anyway, the problem of price hike has reached alarming proportions in Pakistan. The longer it persists, the more catastrophic it would become. The poor and the middle class find it extremely difficult to cope with the huge dimensions of this grievous problem. The only way to beat the high cost of living is perhaps to stop living.
The government has recently announced that magistrates and even ministers will visit bazaars regularly to ensure that there are no price hikes. However, more than visits are required to keep prices in check. Already, rates of many commodities in the market have registered massive increases. The fear is that a further spurt will be witnessed in the coming months, especially during Ramazan. Prices of most vegetables and fruit have risen dramatically over the past few weeks despite an adequate supply was available and no shortage reported from anywhere. This is a clear case of profiteerings by large sections of wholesalers and retailers.
The government should take notice of the prevailing situation in markets all over the country and try to enter into some understanding with the representative’s bodies of the traders on maintaining the normal price level all the year round. Where called for, magistrates should also initiate raids to check prices as well as to maintain the quality of items being sold in the market.
It would not be fair to hold the government alone responsible for checking the rise in prices. The public too must play a part through consumer resistance and not letting the profiteers to have their way. In this regard, consumer awareness of such issues as price and quality must be raised by the NGOs which are always quite vocals on public issues. This can be done with the help of the mass media so that people understand why they should allow the shopkeepers to ask for prices higher than the official? rates. It should be made sure that every shopkeeper displays the rate list quite conspicuously. The traders and shopkeepers who get involved in amassing unlawful and unreasonable profit should be arrested and awarded severe punishments.
The law enforcing agencies should be given absolute authority in this respect. If this is done, prices will surely remain at their correct levels. The government should also try to maintain oil, gas and elect prices at the possible minimum level. Unless both the government and the consumers cooperate in this effort, the whole exercise to check the price hike will prove futile.