With the onset of Ramzan, there comes the usual expectation from the government to set-up Ramzan bazars, ensure that retailers don’t inflate food prices to cheat the consumer and provide relief to the poorest of the poor by providing food and liquid whenever possible. It looks like the government has failed on all three counts in the first two days of this month. In Quetta for example, the first day of the Ramzan saw empty sasta bazars, with no subsidised food products as promised, and with hours without electricity for domestic use. But even with cities such as Lahore, where sasta bazars are up and running, there are reports that food prices in other markets have skyrocketed.

The government should be well-prepared for this month, considering these issues are a yearly problem. Retailers and manufacturers looking to exploit the consumer and make the largest possible profit. Ensuring the availability of goods at the Ramzan bazars is also something one can prepare in advance for. And yet, what we see is the same thing over and over again – the government cannot seem to avoid making the same mistakes time and again.

With the fast now lasting for over 15 hours this year and the temperature rapidly rising, the government needs to protect the people from the deadly effects of being dehydrated in this heat, but so far it has failed to provide even the most basic amenities such as access to cheap food for sehri and iftar.

This year’s Ramzan package was supposed to surpass all others – in Punjab alone, Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif promised 318 Ramzan bazars and 200 Madni Dastarkhwan to break the fast at iftar – at a total cost of Rs9 billion to the government. But with the prices remaining erratic across the country, and the usual threat of substandard goods being sold at the designated Ramzan markets, these promises bring no sort of relief to the public.

The significance of this month to Muslims cannot be overstated, which is perfectly reflected with the way the government makes lofty promises around this time every year. However, tangible action should follow the promises – if it is possible to maintain price control throughout the year, it should be possible to regulate it more strictly during Ramzan as well. Figuring out the kinks in the supply chain should ensure that the Ramzan bazars are well-stocked, with quality goods. The process is not all that hard, it just requires some determination from the government.