ISLAMABAD   -   The National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) has directed Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to take immediate steps to control smuggling in the country, which is creating distortions in the supply and prices of the commodities. The NPMC meeting was held on Friday under the chairmanship of Special Finance Secretary to deliberate upon the 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 provincial governments, Islamabad Capital Territory, Cabinet Division, Ministries of Industries, Commerce, National Food Security and Research, Planning, Development and Reforms, Federal Board of Revenue, Inter Provincial Coordination, Competition Commission of Pakistan, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics and Utility Stores Corporation.

The meeting discussed the trend of Consumer Price Index, which is a headline measure of inflation. The urban and rural inflation indexes were also reviewed by the NPMC. It was also informed that the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), which monitors the prices of 51 essential items on weekly basis, recorded an increase of 1.01 percent on the week ended on 19.09.2019. The Committee also discussed the price movements of these items among the provinces and ICT and observed variations in price level.

The NPMC reviewed the progress on the decisions taken in the last meeting. Punjab government apprised that in pursuance of NPMC decision they have shared their online market complaints App titled “Qeemat Punjab” which is meant to get hands-on picture of price escalation and overpricing matter etc. with other provinces to review the possibility of its replication with their existing system. ICT administration informed that a new sasta bazar has been established in Chak Shehzad with 170 stalls functioning 3 days a week. ICT administration also informed that they are establishing seven additional sasta bazars in Union Councils to provide essential items at affordable prices. A sasta bazaar near Metro Cash and Carry with more than 900 stalls will be fully operationalzed shortly. Further, they are developing a free home delivery online App to provide essential items to the customers at their door steps at affordable prices. Sindh government informed that they have developed a TAB for their Chief Secretary under “Sindh Performance Management System” for price control functions. All the district officers are required to update the actions taken by them to control the prices in their areas. KP government has passed the directions to all the Deputy Commissioners and Food Department field formations to establish sasta bazars at District and Tehsil level.

In compliance of directions of NPMC, Ministry of National Food Security and Research informed that a Committee had been constituted to execute the recommendations of Competition Commission of Pakistan to check cartelization, undue profiteering and monopolistic practices in order to control the price hike. Progress will be shared in due course. The chair instructed the constituted committee to take strict actions to check cartelisation, undue profiteering and monopolistic practises in the country. On the directions of the ECC, the wheat/wheat flour stocks position in the country was also assessed. Ministry of Food Security and Research informed NPMC that the stocks of wheat/wheat flour are sufficient to meet the domestic demand and the prices of wheat bag and Roti/Nan shall remain stable in the country. However, the chair noted that the subsidy of Rs.1.5 billion provided to ‘Roti Tandoors’ has not been translated into provision of cheap Roti to common man and directed provincial governments to take immediate and strict measures to ensure the fair price of Roti for general public. The NPMC noted that profit margin between wholesaler and retailer is huge; therefore the provincial governments should take concrete steps to check undue profit margins for benefit of common man.

 It was emphasized that the prices control committees should be made more proactive to check the general price level at the wholesale and retail level and undue profiteering in the provinces. The need was felt to ensure provision of quality items at Sasta/Itwar bazaars to benefit the common man.

Utility Stores Corporation was directed to explore the possibility of establishing its outlets in ‘Sasta Bazars’ to ensure provision of non-perishable items to far flung areas of the country. ICT administration was advised to present a concrete plan of price monitoring mechanism and steps to remove disparity in prices in the Capital area.