The sight of long queues in front of Utility Stores and other grocery shops shows what misery people have to go through for a pound of well, sugar. Our authorities are far too engrossed in the (very, very profitable) business of imports to notice. As per the latest report, the Pakistan government has cancelled a contract for 50,000 tons of white sugar that it had with Sadan General Trading because the company failed to deliver a consignment in time. The story of another deal of this nature which fizzled out last month is somewhat more interesting. On January 15, the Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) floated a tender for the import of 200,000 metric tons of sugar. In response, seven international companies offered their bids. The highest price was quoted by M/S Wellington Marketing at US $ 826 per ton C&F while M/S American Investment Group USA quoted the lowest at $ 575.90 per ton C&F. (Rs. 44/- per kg). Surprisingly the lowest bid was not accepted on a very flimsy ruse that the bidder failed to remove discrepancies from the bid bond within the stipulated time. Instead, the contract for import of 50,000 tons was given to a company that had alleged support of the rulers, one M/S Agrocorp which had quoted a rate of $ 779.95 a ton. (Rs. 60/-per kg). While the country is in the grip of a serious economic crisis, it is surprising that our planners have been oblivious to the two big disadvantages of the deal. (1) After adding the dealers profit and other expenses, the sugar imported at the rate of Rs. 60/kg would be beyond the reach of common man. (2) The countrys exchequer would be losing US$ 10.2 million only in one consignment of 50,000 tons, to quote the loss on a mere fraction of our total requirement. Why could not we give a couple of weeks more to the lowest bidder to resolve the documentation problem? -RAFI NASIM, Lahore, April 12