Finance Minister Ishaq Dar calls for evolving mechanism to monitor prices

Islamabad, July 10, 2013 (PPI-OT): The National Price Monitoring Committee held its 17th meeting on 10th July, 2013 in Finance Division under the chairmanship of Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar Finance Minister for Finance, Revenue, Economic Affairs, Statistics and Privatization, which was attended by the representatives from the Provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, Balochistan, Islamabad Capital Territory, and Ministries of Industries, Law and Justice, Commerce, Food Security, Interior, Inter Provincial Coordination, Cabinet, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Federal Board of Revenue and Utility Stores Corporation.

The Federal Minister for Finance Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar said that the issue of stability of prices of essential items of daily use and their monitoring was a subject which was very close to his heart. Senator Ishaq Dar recalled that through a Private Member’s Bill titled ‘The control of Price of Essential Commodities and Price-hike Bill 2010’, the Sub Committee worked out some recommendations to ensure food security and administrative mechanism needed to control prices. The sub-committee primarily focused on:

Revival of Executive Magistracy System

Ensuring food security and price stability

Market integration and information system, so that shortage of any commodity may not occur in any region of the country.

Monitoring and enforcement framework for price and supply of essential commodities should be strengthened on priority.

The district price control committee to be established/strengthened by taking representative from government functionaries, consumers and producers. District government should take necessary actions on the recommendations of the committee to control price hike.

Consumer Protection Laws need to be made functional Senator Ishaq Dar regretted that despite parleys with government which continued for 45 days, no mechanism to monitor the prices was devised.

The Finance Minister said for the monitoring of prices of essential items the cooperation of the provinces is imperative. In his budget speech on June 12, 2013, he had mentioned the need for a mechanism to monitor the prices of essential items. “Unless we do not do so, we would not be fair to the people of Pakistan”.

The Finance Minister said that cartels have been formed and it is imperative that a mechanism be established so that “the prices are not allowed to have free fall”. It will be a great service to the nation if we succeed in evolving a mechanism for monitoring of prices, said the Finance Minister.

The meeting presented the trend of inflationary indicators including

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), Food, Non-food, Core, Wholesale Price Index (WPI) and Sensitive Price Index (SPI). The CPI recorded at 5.9 percent during June 2013, similarly SPI and WPI also registered at 7.9 percent and 5.2 percent respectively. The SPI for the week ended on 4th July 2013 recorded an increase 0.55 percent due to increase in prices of some commodities however out of 53 items, prices of 34 items registered increase while ;prices of 03 items decreased and prices of 16 items remained stable as compared to last week ended on 27.6.2013.

The food items which registered increase in their prices are Onion 5.6%, Tomatoes 4.48%, Potatoes 6.57%, Garlic 1.92%, Red Chillies 1.03%, while non-food items responsible for increase are L.P.G. 2.10%, petrol 2.1%, diesel 2.59%, kerosene oil 1.8%.

The items which recorded decrease in their prices are chicken farm -3.01%, Gram Pulse -1.97%, Sugar -0.27%. It was also observed that in comparison with the regional countries, Pakistan is the lowest in prices of Red Chillies, Rice, Sugar, Petrol, Beef, petrol and 2nd lowest in wheat, wheat flour, Gram Pulse, Mutton, Chicken Far, Garlic while Potatoes, Onion, Diesel, Tea and Urea and DAP are higher in Pakistan.

The committee reviewed the; price trend of 28 selected items among the provinces. Some variations in the prices of wheat flour, Rice Basmati Broken, Rice Irri-6, Pulses, Beef, Mutton, Milk Fresh, Milk powdered, Ghee, Tomatoes and Garlic were observed. It was noted that in most items prices in Balochistan and Sindh are higher as compared to other provinces.

The prices of most of the commodities were observed lower in KPK, which was appreciated by the chair that monitoring and price check mechanism is in place. The chair emphasized for sharing of market intelligence among the provinces. It was informed that Food Security Division is consulting the provincial governments to overcome this issue and soon a proposal would be in place for implementation. The chair appreciated and emphasized to continue the efforts to address the prices disparities among the provinces.

During the meeting, the present system of data collection was discussed. The Finance Minister desired the need to revisit the present system of data collection so that it is both realistic and reliable. In order to do away with duplication and parallel efforts to collect data, the Minister desired that the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics should be the solely dedicated for collecting of data and held responsible for its integrity. “The present system of law of averages does not present a true picture”. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics would be an independent body having full ownership and responsibility, he added.

During the meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee, it was decided that Ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination through the Cabinet Division will present a draft bill to Cabinet for restoration of executive magistracy in the country.

The decision was taken to give teeth to the administration “so that it can intervene and make an impact on stability and monitoring of prices” said the Finance Minister. The Finance Minister however, said that the administration will have to take personal interest in the matter as it concerns the common man.

During the meeting it was decided a number of actions was agreed that would be taken by the provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory administration for keeping a check on prices during Ramazan. It was decided that in Punjab, district price control committees will be activated, prices of essential items will be fixed keeping in view the market condition by consulting all stakeholders, 1235 Price Magistrates will be notified by Home Department, 335 Ramazan Bazars will be established, 2051 Fair Price Shops will be established and 1063 Iftar Madni Dusterkhawns.

In Sindh, all Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners will hold meetings with various traders and caution them against hoarding, black-marketing and profiteering, all Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners will fix the price of essential commodities with the help of NGOs/Consumer Associations, display of price lists on prominent places, establishment of stalls of wheat floor in major weekly bazaars and surprise visits of markets will be conducted.

It was further decided that in case of any shortage Food Department and Utility Stores Corporation will bring their stocks in the market and control rooms will be established in offices of all Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners in Sindh. The establishment of 135 weekly bazaars in Karachi was also decided in the meeting.

To properly monitor the prices in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, it was decided that to fix prices of all essential commodities, District Price Review Committees will be established, prices will be monitored by district administration and Food Department jointly, District Administration will plan Jumma/Atwar Bazaars at suitable places and strict watch on Atta Dealers to ensure availability of atta throughout the province. It was further decided that special teams of local administration will take legal action under Food Stuff Control Order 1975.

To keep the prices of essential commodities in control during the Holy Month of Ramazan in Balochistan, the National Price Monitoring Committee decided that price lists will be notified in consultation with traders and consumer society, existing stocks of essential items will be verified and measures will be taken to improve supply and address shortage and Itwar/Jumma/Daily Ramazan Bazaars will be made operational. It was further decided that appropriate mechanism will be devised for reporting prices and demand and supply situation in all districts. District Control Rooms will be established for coordination, monitoring and feedback.

To properly monitor prices of essential commodities in Islamabad Capital Territory, the National Price Monitoring Committee decided that rate lists of fruits, vegetables, chicken, eggs will be fixed on daily basis, the prices of yogurt, Basin, Pakora, Samosa, Gelabi will be notified by Deputy Commissioner, 35 fair price shops will be established in urban areas and four Ramzan Susta Bazaars will start working on 1st Ramazan. It was also decided that Magistrates will be deputed to control prices and complaint cells will also be established.

The Finance Minister directed the Secretary Finance Dr. Waqar Masood that he should contact the Chief Secretaries of all provinces and Chief Commissioners of ICT to coordinate the implementation of agreed actions in this meeting. The provinces should also submit weekly progress report to the Finance Ministry apart from sharing best practices among themselves.

The Federal Minister also directed Chairman FBR to reiterate the list of 43 essential items which are exempt from GST so that profiteers cannot mislead the people.

The Finance Minister also directed the Ministry of Food Security to present a comprehensive plan for increasing yield per acre as the present yields of crops in the country are below even by regional standards.

The Finance Minister expressed the confidence that Pakistan has the potential to increase its production through increasing per acre yield of various crops and become an agriculture exporting country.

The Finance Ministry said that increase in agriculture production is one of the most effective ways to address poverty deviation in the country.

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