According to a recent survey by Gallup, the masses have shifted their concern from corruption being the biggest issue in the country to the inflation that now pesters them daily. The cost of living in the country has gone up since Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) assumed power. However, after quite some time, the government has managed to control the prices of certain necessities. This is a great relief for the average consumer, whose income has not increased in proportion to the price hikes in the economy.

After increasing prices of various flour varieties by Rs15-20 per kg from April till Nov 12, millers are reducing rates of flour no.2.5 to Rs47.50, down a rupee from Rs48.50 per kg. Prices of 10 kg bags for the same variety have been lowered to Rs480 from Rs490. The government’s decision to release wheat stocks from Pakistan Agriculture Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to Sindh government coupled with a decline in wheat prices in the open market to Rs4,400-4,500 from Rs4,700-4,800 per 100 kg bag are the main reasons of price decline.

The problem, however, is that the price of superfine flour has remained the same. The prices of such day to day commodities, if managed by the government, can provide relief to the masses. At this point, one of the key issues is that several sellers decide their own rate for the products in the market. It is often too late when the government takes action. If the government can develop a mechanism for price quotes, it can ensure that artificial hikes take place in the economy. The government is also encouraging the import of cheaper Iranian tomatoes, which will be a cheaper alternative for the average consumer. This will also push the local producer to reduce their prices in the market, creating healthy competition and giving a variety of options to consumers.

Another problem of subsidised rates in the market and emphasis on following them results in an uprise in the smuggling of the same product. Mill owners a few days back had informed the Sindh government about illegal smuggling of wheat from Jacobabad to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and even Afghanistan. If the government can exercise stricter control and create a database for such transit, then it can have greater transparency in the process and also keep the consumers from being overcharged for day to day items of use.