In a country where the month of Ramzan holds so much significance to the majority of the population, the usual rise in the prices for essential commodities has resurfaced as expected, and the government’s efforts to keep a check on markets has all but failed. There are many reasons for this yearly inflation, which go beyond the most obvious explanation of increasing demand against an already stretched supply chain in a month when the public’s main expenditure is basic food items. The prices set by the government before Ramzan are rarely adhered to by a mix of wholesalers and retailers alike, and in high crime areas such as Karachi, the rampancy of extortion related crimes has a big part to play in increasing prices; retailers always try to pass the burden of extra costs such as this and high taxes onto the final consumer.

Retailers and wholesalers have worked a way around the government’s less-than-foolproof plan of making routine checks of prices in markets by decreasing the prices to accepted rates when the officials come knocking, and increasing them whenever they leave satisfied. Things are slightly better in Lahore, with only a slight increase in prices compared to other areas of the country, but that is to be expected, considering the PML-N’s proclivity to concentrating all their efforts on the prime source of their power, the provincial capital. The government claims that it has arrested over 800 people and has received over Rs. 3.4 million in fines, but the unabated inflation and the bravado of the exploitative retailers makes this assertion less than believable.

The ‘Ramzan Bazaars’ that have stricter price controls are of no help either, with poor quality vegetables and fruits that make the price cuts redundant. Consumers that can afford it hence have an option; to buy cheaper low quality goods that will ruin their sehri or iftari, or to give in to the exploitation and buy commodities at exorbitant prices. The poor however, are not spoilt for choice, and will have to buy food items that are in many cases barely edible. With 15 days left till the end of this month, the government needs to get its act together and bring all links of the supply chain in line. It must make them adhere to the price controls set to ensure that the latter part of the month is not spent with the public getting cheated, especially in a month when honesty and selflessness are supposed to be the spiritual hallmarks of the people.