The price reduction of over Rs.28 per litre in diesel between July 2014 and February 2015 did not ease the pressure significantly on the end-users in the commodity market. This is disappointing news for all the furore that was made over the international oil price drop and the boon it would be for the consumer.

Analysts have put the blame on the government’s inability to enforce new prices and regulate unfair trade practices at both the federal and provincial level. Sellers have been behaving according to their own whims with prices of food going up, even when the government has been announcing reductions in inflation. There has been no effective price monitoring to ensure fairness in trade. The government does have a routine fortnightly exercise of issuing price lists by the city governments but keeping a vigil on profiteering and overcharging in cities has proven to ineffective. Since July last year, the prices of most commodities has risen inclusive of spices, meat, tea and cooking oils. Shopkeepers have argued that prices are high because consumption didn’t increase when oil prices fell, turning it into more of a chicken-before-the-egg argument. In either case the seller’s want to milk the consumer for whatever he’s worth, much like the water, power and petroleum ministries.

The public sector had a key role to play in this regard. If transport costs had fallen, starting with PIA and the railways, private carriers would have had to reduce rates due to under market pressure. The government had no direction and took no initiative to make the situation beneficial for the industry. Thus transport costs have only been reduced for the individual who drives a car or a bike, and that too, nominally, due to the totally avoidable oil shortage in the Punjab.

And it gets worse. With the rising oil revenues of the US, the dollar is getting stronger against the rupee. If the oil price crisis remains another one year, the dollar will gain even more against all currencies. And if the prices bounce back, and there they are predicted to and we are already seeing a rise from $50 per barrel to $58, it will be another blow to consumers here. It is not a pretty picture for the future of Pakistani wallets. We are in a new era of oil, and prices will continue to fluctuate with the US increasing production and alternative energy becoming a viable option as well. It’s best to tighten belts and make sure one’s car’s oil tank is always half full.