Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue, Mr. Shaukat Tarin, chaired a meeting of National Price Monitoring Committee (NPMC) at the Finance Division today.
While reviewing the Year-on-Year and Week-on-Week inflation trends, the Finance Minister urged the respective District Administrations and departments concerned to take stern administrative measures to keep the prices of essential items, including vegetables, in check on the occasion of upcoming Eid-ul-Adha to eliminate undue profiteering.
The Secretary Finance briefed the Committee about a slight increase of 0.07% in weekly Sensitive Price Index (SPI), indicating price stability as compared to the previous weeks. The NPMC also reviewed the year-on-year weekly inflation. It is pertinent to mention that the year-on-year weekly inflation is coming down for the last two months from a high of 17.23% on 20 May 2021 to 12.28% on 8 July 2021, which is a significant decline in SPI.
Similarly, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) (as released on 1 July 2021) showed an annual inflation at national level at 8.9%, which was down from 10.74% a year ago, while urban and rural inflation were at 8.15% and 10.05% as compared to 10.17% and 11.63% respectively. Clearly, the inflation is coming down across all measures.
The Finance Minister constituted a working group under the umbrella of NPMC comprising of Provincial Chief Secretaries, Secretary Finance Division and representatives of PBS, M/o NFS&R and other relevant departments to workout measures for bringing price stability in basic commodities by using mystery shopping exercise and building strategic reserves of key commodities, namely wheat, sugar, pulses, ghee, tomatoes, onions and potatoes in order to eliminate undue profit margins and ensure availability of items of daily use at affordable prices across the country.
While taking stock of the situation, the Finance Minister directed PBS to present a detailed variance analysis vis-a-vis weekly SPI, highlighting food prices prevailing across mainstream cities/districts for real-time comparison. The data would be used by the respective Provincial administrations and departments concerned to ensure that notified rates are being followed across the board. This will minimize price differential between farm gate prices and retail rates.
Secretary, M/o Industries and Production briefed the NPMC about the international price trend of edible oil. After increase in prices of Soya bean and Palm Oils, at present the international prices have registered a decline. The Finance Minister directed the Ministry of Industries and Production, the Competition Commission of Pakistan(CCP) and FBR to take requisite actions to ensure that current decline in the international prices of edible oil is passed on to the domestic consumers soon.
On the occasion, the Chairperson, Competition Commission of Pakistan briefed the Committee that CCP has undertaken an inquiry in the edible oil and ghee sector to ascertain information and cross check facts regarding alleged collective price-fixing of retail prices of various products of cooking oil and ghee for different market segments.
The Finance Minister directed the Chairperson, CCP to expedite inquiry and follow due course of action to put an end to anti-competitive activities. No cartelization will be allowed at any cost and strict action will be taken against hoarding and undue profiteering, he affirmed.
The CCP also shared findings about presence of 4,000 Artis across 36 districts in Punjab who’re dealing with the prices of basic vegetables. After reviewing the findings of the CCP, the Finance Minister directed to build a model/frame work in which DCs/ACs are assigned to monitor a specific number of Artis (middlemen) to eliminate price manoeuvring. Such model can be replicated in other Provinces to minimize the price differential across the whole chain, i.e. from farm gate to retail prices of basic commodities.
The Finance Minister also constituted a Committee comprising of Provincial Chief Secretaries, Secretary Finance, Secretary NFS&R, Chairperson CCP and representative of PBS to formulate an action plan and hold all those accountable who are involved in price-fixation and anti-competitive activities after fulfilling all codal formalities.
The Secretary, M/o NFS&R apprised the NPMC that sufficient stocks of wheat are available in the country. He also informed that arrangements are underway for importing wheat for building strategic reserves (as approved by ECC) and the whole process would be completed soon.
Likewise, the Secretary, M/o Industries and Production also updated NPMC that arrangements have been made to import one lac ton of sugar by 15th August 2021. The Finance Minister directed to procure another 100,000 ton of sugar in due course of time to ensure strategic reserves of key commodities for price stability.
The Secretary Industries and Production further apprised that sufficient reserves of sugar will be available till the arrival of the new sugarcane crop.
Federal Minister for National Food Security & Research Syed Fakhar Imam, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, SAPM on Finance and Revenue Dr. Waqar Masood, Secretary Finance Division, Secretary, Ministry of Industries and Production, Secretary M/o National Food Security & Research, Chairman FBR, Provincial Chief Secretaries, MD PASSCO, MD Utility Store Corporation, Chairman CCP, Deputy Commissioner, Islamabad and other senior officers of the Finance Division participated in the meeting.