LAHORE: Prime Minister Imran Khan has called for a crackdown on businessmen and traders who are profiteering by creating ‘artificial inflation’ at the behest of political elements.
The Federal Government has called an emergency meeting of the National Price Monitoring Commission on July 17 (Thursday) to investigate the extraordinary increase in prices of various commodities and the alleged ulterior motives behind it. Sources said that wholesale activities and daily use items will also be among the focus areas of the meeting.
The chief secretaries of all four provinces, secretaries of the provincial departments of agriculture and industry, the federal secretaries for food security, law, interior, planning and development, inter-provincial coordination, and statistics, and the chairmen of the FBR, and the Competition Commission of Pakistan will attend the meeting.
All four provincial governments have been asked to present details of the action taken against profiteers and to present the ‘real’ situation in various markets, including price fluctuations, profit rates, supply and demand situations, and the efficiency of price magistrates.
The meeting will be headed by Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Abdul Hafeez Sheikh. The meeting is expected to take tough decisions on artificial inflation and hoarding while also removing or reducing taxes on some items at the federal and provincial levels.
Sources said that during the past few days, the federal government has become increasingly concerned by extreme criticism hurled at it by the public and political opponents in the face of high inflation.
Suggestions regarding improving the price magistrate system and market monitoring of the four provinces will also be discussed, and their performance will also be reviewed.
According to the source, Punjab’s price magistrates have been performing better than the other provinces, conducting 32,000 raids in just 13 days and levying fines of Rs15 million on profiteers, while 372 cases were lodged and 295 people were arrested.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Punjab Industries, Commerce and Investment Mian Aslam Iqbal said that some business elements have artificially inflated the prices of certain goods. Despite this, he said that public necessities have been given special consideration by the Punjab government and taxes have not been applied on everyday food items. The real problem, he claimed, is that some people are being used by the political opponents of the government and are creating inexplicable inflation to manipulate the public against the government.
Iqbal said that the vision of PM Imran is to make people’s lives easier. He said the government has taken notice of “unjustified inflation” under a political conspiracy. “We are going to take action against such elements. We know the real problems facing traders and we are also negotiating with them in this regard,” he said.
The minister added that everyone should understand that they need to pay their taxes for the country to prosper. He claimed that “the way previous governments looted the country is what led the people and the government into the economic crisis of today”.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2019.