The government has decided to introduce a law to restore the executive magistracy system aimed at bringing price stability, as the country currently operates in a vacuum when it comes to controlling prices of essential commodities.
The decision was taken on Wednesday in a meeting of the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) which was chaired by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and attended by the representatives of provincial governments.
The ministry of Inter Provincial Coordination will bring a draft bill to the cabinet for the restoration of the executive magistracy. 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”, according to an official announcement.
The NPMC also decided to take special measures in all provinces to discourage hoarding and artificial price hike in the holy month of Ramazan.
Through a Private Member’s Bill, Dar said he had proposed to the previous government of the Pakistan Peoples Party to revive the executive magistracy to ensure food security and price stability, but it did not take any action.
The finance minister said the cooperation of provinces was imperative to monitor the prices of essential items. He urged the provinces to share market intelligence in this regard and added that a comprehensive mechanism was required to monitor prices.
Dar termed the current price data collection system unsatisfactory and directed the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics to make it realistic and reliable.
“The present system of law of averages does not present a true picture,” he said.
The committee agreed on a number of actions that would be taken by the provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration to keep a check on prices during Ramazan.
It was decided that in Punjab, the district price control committees will be activated and prices of essential items will be fixed keeping in view the market condition by consulting all stakeholders.
In Sindh, all commissioners and deputy commissioners will hold meetings with various traders and caution them against hoarding, black-marketing and profiteering. The officials will fix the prices of essential commodities with the help of non-governmental organisations, display price lists at prominent places, establish stalls of wheat and flour at major weekly bazaars and surprise visits of markets will be conducted.
Furthermore, it was decided that in case of any shortage, the Food Department and Utility Stores Corporation will bring their stocks to the market in Sindh.
In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the NPMC decided that district price review committees will be established and prices will be monitored by the district administration and Food Department jointly. Special teams of local administration will take legal action under Food Stuff Control Order of 1975 in the province.
In Balochistan, the NPMC decided that price lists will be notified in consultation with traders and consumers, existing stocks of essential items will be verified and measures will be taken to improve supply and address shortages.
In ICT, the committee took the decision that rate lists of essential items will be fixed on a daily basis and magistrates will be deputed to control prices and complaint cells will also be established.
Dar directed Secretary Finance Dr Waqar Masood to contact the chief secretaries of all provinces and chief commissioner of ICT to coordinate the implementation of the agreed mechanisms. The provinces have been asked to submit weekly progress reports to the finance ministry, apart from sharing best practices among themselves.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.