THE current floods should have provided an opportunity to marvel at the power of the Almighty, and give thanks by giving generously to the victims in this holy month. However, unfortunately, the more unscrupulous among us have preferred to make humongous profits. The decision of the Cartel Commission of Pakistan to impose a Rs 50 million fine on the Pakistan Poultry Association shows this. The Commissions decision took place as a result of the industry forming a cartel and prevailing upon its members to curtail production to manipulate prices. However, unscrupulous elements in the private sector need only point to the public to find supportive examples. While the federal government has decided to review the post-flood economic situation, the Punjab government has not even waited for the result of those talks, due on August 23, for its Cabinet to have decided to consider the imposition of a flood cess. It has not been decided on what the cess would be levied, but this would be in addition to the 30 percent cut in development spending, in accordance with a federal government decision. The meeting with the IMF would see Pakistan try to use the immense havoc created by the floods to obtain some relaxation in slippages which have occurred, particularly on the fiscal deficit, tax reforms, inflation and GDP growth. The government clearly has the intention, despite the magnitude of the catastrophe, of staying on in the IMF programme. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilanis talk of damage assessments notwithstanding, the damage and need assessment of the flood would be carried out by the Asian Development Bank, not the Pakistan government, and it is on that that the IMF will rely. That the international lending agencies would try to keep Pakistan on a short leash was a requirement of the war on terror. That they would use this natural calamity to increase their hold was not expected, even considering the governments obedience so far. The only way out is for Pakistan to break with the IMF, and refuse to continue its intrusive programme. Similarly, the government must be even more careful of cartels, and should pay particular attention to the sugar cartel, which is preparing to exploit the situation to engage in profiteering and cartelization later this year and next year. But apart from sugar manufacturers, others are also looking at the situation in the hope of exploiting it. The government must be ready to crack down on them. Amidst all this, the federal and provincial governments must balance their books while providing for the flood affectees by controlling lavish expenditures, not imposing yet more taxes.