The topic is not a new subject for our society and markets. The people of Pakistan have remained under the grip of one or more cartels since its creation. History proves this issue and we have witnessed volatility of this issue and counter actions of the past regimes to address this problem. However it has developed new dimensions in last few months and has significantly targeted the population of our poverty ridden country. We need to ponder on its causes, the consequences it has ensued in our daily lives and the remedial measures to counter its threat in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic. The popular talkshow Dunya Kamarn Khan ke Saath of 16th June 2020 has highlighted some pertinent observations and solutions to this problem. I have pasted following link for the interested readers to watch and listen the participants who have briefly painted a grim picture of our markets under the unlawful influence of such cartels.
The cartels are groups of people involved in various businesses particularly in supply of food commodities and in control of their price in a country where corruption and nepotism is rampant. They tend to manipulate the market for their advantage and to fetch unchecked huge profits. The consumers are at the mercy of these cartels and helpless to oppose their dealings.
The main cause of this problem is the absence of any regulatory frame work enacted by government and enforcement of its laws if exist. While Government of Pakistan has made some efforts in establishing a body known as Competition Commission of Pakistan as per provision of constitution however it is utterly dormant in carrying out its functions. Another area of concern is lack of governance by local bodies under the jurisdiction of provincial governments. The price control committees provide a mechanism to deal with this issue however due to political and social issues the committees are inactive to the detriment of poverty ridden peasants.
The solution of this problem is the breaking of market hegemony of these cartels through creation of competitive environment. The above mentioned Competition Commission of Pakistan has necessary mechanism to build up a frame work in order to access local markets. A comprehensive market strategy may be adopted making effective use of electronic and print media that would be needed to accomplish this task. The utility stores corporation needs to be reorganized with more resources to access local markets in towns and villages. Moreover the price control committees be made more authoritative under the control of commissioners and deputy commissioners, in case of villages and towns it is the AC.
The prevalent environment under Covid 19 pandemic demands that government needs to adopt strict measures to provide relief to common man.PM has already initiated inquiries and investigation against Sugar, flour and fuel cartels with raids and arrests. However government still lacks sufficient will to disrupt the market hegemony of these cartels. The government may impose heavy penalties and sealing their sale outlets to ensue deterrence. These actions could certainly improve the environment and restore confidence of people in the government.
Mufti Muhammad Khalid