ISLAMABAD   -   The National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) on Friday directed Competition Commission of Pakistan to take proactive measures to check the undue profiteering and eliminate the cartelization practices to control the soaring inflation in the country.

The NPMC meeting was held under the chairmanship of Special Finance Secretary to discuss prices of essential food and non food items and stock of supply of the essential items.

The meeting was attended by the representatives from the provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhthunkhwa, Islamabad Capital Territory, Ministries of Industries, Law and Justice, Commerce, National Food Security and Research, Planning Development and Reform, Inter Provincial Coordination, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Utility Stores Corporation and Federal Board of Revenue.

The meeting was informed that the National CPI with new base for the month of August, 2019 increased by 10.49 percent over August, 2018. The urban CPI was recorded at 10.64 percent while rural CPI was recorded at 10.27 percent. It was also informed that the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), which monitors the prices of 53 essential items on weekly basis, recorded a decrease of 0.18 percent on the week ended on 29th August 2019. Prices of 16 items increased, 12 items decreased and 25 items remains unchanged.

The NPMC discussed in detail the increase in prices of daily food items and non-food items including wheat, rice, chicken, onion, mash pulse, gram pulse, masoor pulse, meat, milk powder, cooking oil, vegetable ghee, sugar,  gas charges, motor fuel, transport services, motor fuel, footwear, construction wage rates,  doctor clinic fee etc. The Committee observed main reasons of increase in prices of these items and dilated on the possibilities to check the anti-competitive practices, undue price hike and price disparity in the country. It was also noticed that inflationary pressures are affecting the purchasing power of lower and middle income class of the society. Therefore, vigilant monitoring of prices of food and non-food items at district level and better co-ordination among the provinces are essential to ensure provision of essential food items at affordable prices.

The meeting also took note of the profit margin at the level of wholesalers and retailers and accordingly provincial governments were advised to take proactive measures to rationalize the undue profit margins. Competition Commission of Pakistan was also advised to take proactive measures to check the undue profiteering and eliminate the cartelization practices and control the monopolistic practices so that the small enterprises may be encouraged to enhance their productivity. The meeting also stressed the effective utilization of statistical data for planning and decision making to mitigate the inflationary pressures and to remove price disparity in ICT and among provinces. ICT administration was also directed to take strict measures to ensure the applicability of price list across the federal area and also advised to ensure the quality of essential items in the market.

The meeting also reviewed the prices of essential items in Sasta bazaars and open markets and noted that the prices are significantly lower in Sasta bazaars as compared to open markets.

However, the need was felt to expand the Sasta/Itwar bazaars across the country. The chair suggested that provincial governments and ICT to expand the network of such Sasta bazaars. The chair also advised to ensure the quality of essential items in such bazaars to benefit the common man.

The chair emphasized that while discussing the price controls, supply side factors should also be taken into consideration, as unless the availability of sufficient commodities is not addressed, prices may continue to fluctuate in the markets.

NPMC directed Ministry of National Food Security & Research to constitute a committee comprising representation from all provinces and relevant stakeholders to review the framework of recommendations prepared by Competition Commission of Pakistan regarding price control and supply of essential food items and implement the recommendations contained therein at the earliest. Punjab government was also directed to share their online market complaints App and its redressal mechanism with ICT and provinces. The chair assured that the Finance Division is committed to take effective fiscal measures to control inflationary pressures and to provide relief to the general public at large.