ISLAMABAD       -        Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) is preparing proposals for controlling the deficiency of essential items, which would be presented in Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) for approval. The National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC), which was held under the chairmanship of the Secretary Finance Naveed Kamran Baloch, has discussed the inflation rate and measures taken by the government to control the prices. The NPMC meeting was held after a gap of almost six months.

Official have informed The Nation that NFS&R is working on proposals for controlling the deficiency and prices of essential commodities. The government is seriously contemplating to reduce General Sales Tax (GST) on food commodities including sugar to control prices.

One of the options is to reduce GST from 17 percent to 5 percent on essential food commodities.  Reducing GST on sugar from 17 percent to 5 percent would decrease the commodity price by Rs9.72 per kg in the domestic market. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan would take the final decision after reviewing the revenue impact.

The government has vigilant to control the inflation after it touched 14.6 percent in January 2020— scaling the highest level in 12 years. Prime Minister is continuously chairing meetings to discuss the measures to control the inflation rate.  He had also announced not to increase the electricity and gas prices.

After the NPMC meeting, Secretary Finance said that prices of essential items are increasing in the markets around the country and causing unrest in the public. However, he clarified that function of price control falls under the domain of the provinces after devolution.

The provinces must accept this responsibility and make efforts to appease the masses. He said that local governments should be ready and prepared to take additional measures during Ramazan to save masses from price hike. The federal government would help the local governments if any help is required. He has also asked the local government to ensure display of price lists and its applicability.

Naveed Kamran Baloch said that provinces should share information as to which items other than the essential items, they think, add to inflation and how the government can help in coping with the scarcity.

They should also share and guide the federal government and other provincial governments that how network of sasta bazaars will help to reduce inflationary pressures on the common man, he added.

“Hoarding for profiteering should be checked at every level and every stage and necessary action under the law should be taken against profiteers and hoarders”.  Smuggling of essential food items should be dealt with utmost severity.

As far as the Federal Government is concerned, Secretary Finance stated, the issue is being taken with utmost importance as the Prime Minister is particularly interested in reducing the burden on the common man which is increasing due to increase in prices.

The PM is personally engaging the provincial Chief Secretaries twice a week to ensure swift action. The PM has also given subsidy to Utility stores Corporation (Rs 15 billion) and there are suggestions to open more of the stores in various parts of the country where they are needed.

Federal Government is also taking measures to control smuggling of essential food items. Ministry of NFS&R is also preparing proposals to be approved by ECC that will help in controlling the deficiency of essential items.

The Federal Government is doing everything possible in its domain.  The Secretary said that “there will be accountability for all those who are not taking the appropriate action keeping in view the distress the general public is enduring due to increase in the prices, as the Government is mindful of the welfare of the people”.

It was also decided that there will be a follow up meeting in the next week as the PM has special interest in reducing the level of prices of essential items all over the country.

Senior representatives of the Provincial Governments, ICT Administration, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Utility Stores Corporation, Pakistan Customs and Cabinet Division attended the meeting.

Data on CPI and SPI was presented by the Economic Adviser’s wing at the Finance Division with input from Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. It was noted that inflation has increased around 14.6% in January when compared to same period last year, noteworthy aspect being observed is that during the past five weeks the SPI (Sensitive Price Index) was showing a declining trend.

On the week ending on 13th Feb 2020, SPI was -0.38. The prices of 13 items decreased and 19 remained stable in the past week.

It was observed that wheat was the cheapest in Punjab and highest in Sindh ( Rs 809 per 20 kg and Rs 1058 respectively).