ISLAMABAD

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday directed Competition Commission of Pakistan to gear up its role in an effective manner to control hoarding, profiteering, breaking cartelisation and taking corrective measures so that benefits of decline in oil and other commodities' prices may be passed on to general consumers.

He made these remarks while chairing the National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC). Finance Minister showed concern on the rise in the prices of pulses and dairy products. The prices of dairy products were declining globally but the impact was not being reflected in the domestic prices. The Minister directed Ministry of Food Security & Research to bring a viable plan to overcome the production & consumption gap of pluses and other minor crops by taking all stakeholders on board, so that price stability and smooth supply could be maintained in a consistent way.

He directed for constituting a sub-committee comprising Ministries of Food Security and Research, Industries and Production, Commerce, Finance and other concerned departments to develop an actionable plan, which should not only suggest measures for removing shortages but contribute to stability in the prices of pulses and other minor crops. He emphasised that this work should be taken in hand immediately and a report be ready within 10 days. Ministry of Food Security and Research also informed the meeting about the new initiatives which they had taken to enhance production of pulses, tomatoes and other minor crops.

Ishaq Dar said that the Prime Minister had instructed the provinces that benefit of decrease in petrol and diesel prices should reach the consumers throughout the country. He also advised the provincial governments to take proactive measures and identify where they needed assistance from Islamabad. The Federal Government was ready to provide maximum support at all level for the benefit of common man in the country, he added.

The meeting was informed that transport fares in the four provinces had been decreased aiming to transfer benefit in reduction of oil prices to the general public. The provincial governments had issued notifications to this effect and were also taking measures to ensure implementation, the meeting was further told. The NPMC noted with satisfaction that in comparison with countries in the region, Pakistan had the lowest prices of petrol, diesel and a number of other items.

The Chair further said that the government was taking all possible measures to keep a check on prices of daily needs with the support of all stakeholders so that cartels, profiteers, and hoarders would not make undue profit. As a result of these efforts, government had succeeded to bring inflation down to 3.9pc during January 2015, which was the lowest in last 12 years. The decline in inflation was broad-based as food inflation was recorded as 3.0pc, Non-Food 4.5pc, while inflation in core commodities, sensitive prices and wholesale prices had also depicted significant declining trends.

The Chair also emphasised for expediting the process of Executive Magistracy System. The Ministry of IPC informed that as directed by the Council of Common Interest, all provinces have become party to the petition being heard in the Supreme Court. The NPMC also observed that in comparison with the regional countries, Pakistan had the lowest prices of wheat, wheat flour, chicken farm, gram pulse, petrol, diesel, eggs, onion, red chilies and second lowest in sugar, beef, rice basmati, milk fresh and Masoor pulse.

The meeting was informed by the representative from Government of Punjab that the prices of petrol, transport fare and freight had been curtailed. The Chief Minister was monitoring the situation on daily basis. Consequent upon the recent decline in fuel prices they had reduced existing fares of public transport intercity and intra-city by 8 to10 percent in February 2015. The Cabinet Committee on price control and transport were meeting weekly to control price and implement reduced fares. From November onward Punjab Government had imposed fine of Rs32 million and 3380 FIRs had been registered against the shop keepers on overcharging, and 4012 price offenders were arrested.

Government of Sindh informed that along with decline in petrol prices the transport fares had been reduced by 8pc in January, 2015 and further 5pc in the month of February 2015 and government was ensuring proper enforcement in the province. Task Forces had also been constituted to monitor the prices of wheat flour and meat. Complaint Centers were also established in each district under the supervision of the concerned Assistant Commissioner and 30601 profiteers were fined and 1206 were imprisoned during last year. Besides this Sindh Government had registered 862 storages of essential commodities under 'The Sindh Government Registration Act, 1995' and maintaining the record of the commodities.

KP Government also informed that transport and freight charges had been curtailed and Chief Minister himself was monitoring the situation with the co-ordination of DCOs. The KP government curtailed 20pc fares of diesel vehicles and was effecting strict enforcement in the province. Inspection teams in KP had checked 4969 shop keepers and charged 650 shopkeepers in the month of January 2015 and imposed fines of Rs.2.7 million.

Similarly the ICT administration was continuously monitoring the prices of edibles, the meeting was informed. The weekly and sasta bazaars had been established to mitigate the impact of higher prices in the markets. The meetings of price control committees including Assistant Commissioner and price Magistrate were held regularly.

The meeting was attended by  representatives from the Provinces of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Islamabad Capital Territory, and Ministries of Industries, Law and Justice, Food Security and Research, Interior, Inter Provincial Coordination, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Federal Board of Revenue, Utility Stores Corporation and Competition Commission of Pakistan.