BY IFTIKHAR MASHWANI
The economists of the country have been justifying the sky-rocketing prices as a sequence to inflation the world over. Their logic is that the prices in the country are determined strictly by market forces and that domestic prices would reflect that of the international market. If this is the yardstick, then under this formula, consumers in Pakistan should be the beneficiaries of decrease in prices of different items in the international market yet unfortunately both the Government and the business community are not willing to pass on the benefit to the poor masses.
Oil prices touched $147 a barrel badly affecting the Government as well as consumers in Pakistan. The phenomenon led to unprecedented price hike causing great hardships for the poor. The Government kept on telling the people that it was left with no choice but to pass on the burden to the common man and that the prices would be revised downward when they come down in the international market. Now that the prices of oil have plummeted to $60 a barrel, no one in the Government is even talking of providing relief to the inflation stricken people. There seem to be no decrease in the petroleum prices in the wake of the steep fall in their prices in the international market. This is outright fleecing of the poor and that too by a Government that has come to power through popular vote. It is regrettable that countries like Bangladesh have reduced the oil prices by 17 Taka a litre but the Government of Pakistan is not even ready to contemplate a relief that is legitimate right of the people.
This attitude is not restricted to crude oil alone, as the edible oil industry doubled and tripled the prices in view of rising prices of palm oil in the world market but it is not willing to reduce them even after fifty percent drop in prices of edible oil in the international market. Similarly, Haj fares were increased significantly in view of rising oil prices but the pilgrims would be performing journey at a time when prices have dropped by seventy percent but PIA has no plans to offer relief to pilgrims. We believe that most of the problems of Pakistan – slow economic activity, high electricity rates and transport fares, rising cost of production – are directly or indirectly linked to the oil price and these could be overcome by reducing domestic oil prices.
As a result of instability and uncertainty in Pakistan, there has been flight of capital. Diversion of huge amount of dollars to Middle East has almost depleted our foreign exchange reserves, deficit. Due to extremely poor economic situation we are forced to seek assistance from our so-called friends failing which to revert back to IMF. This will result in withd4awal of subsidies from all consumer items and the poor will face still more hardship as as there will be phenomenal increasing oil, energy ,daily essential prices by hundreds of percents when in world their prices have gone down. Our government has raised highest ever GST, utility tariff when it is not in a position to tackle the problems of load-shedding, over billing of electricity and water charges what to speak of the miserable situation in health and education facilities . Regular drumming of ‘ BISC’ coupons is loosing its steam due to unprecedented rising cost of daily essential, utilities and tariff. We would urge the government to remedy the situation before it is too late.