PM TRACKER
.
 

COMMITTEE ON PRICE CONTROL A SIGNIFICANT MOVE

.
From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI,
 Islamabad

 Apr 11 - 17, 2005
.

 

 

 

The constitution of a 12-member committee, headed by the advisor on Finance, Dr. Salman Shah to strictly monitor price control situation by keeping an eye on supply and demand position was the most significant policy decision taken by the Prime Minister, Shaukat Aziz, last week.

The Prime Minister also conducted a late night meeting with Directors of Karachi Stock Exchange and top brass of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) to strike the root cause behind recent crash of the stock markets in Pakistan. He advised them to go to the bottom of the matter to ascertain the real causes, which led to the unusual crash causing huge losses to the weak investors. He said he wanted smiles back to the KSE.

The premier has also reviewed performance of the Agriculture Ministry. He inaugurated an international seminar on anti-money laundering measures organized by the State Bank of Pakistan, besides addressing the delegates from Asian countries at the launch of Gandhara week in Islamabad.

The inauguration of the gas supply project for Gudu town in Balochistan was another highlight of the week. He addressed the staff and students of Lasbela University of Agriculture Water and Marine Science in Balochistan and had a meeting with a group of industrialists in Lahore.

At a reception, hosted in his honour by MNA, Sardar Saleem Jan Mazari in Kashmore, the Prime Minister reiterated his government's resolve to build more water reservoirs to meet the growing irrigation demand.

Though it was a late decision to constitute Prime Minister's Committee on Prices (PMCP), yet it was a step in the right direction. The PMCP with Dr. Salman Shah as Chairman, has its members namely Daniyal Aziz, Chairman NRB, Omer Ayub Khan, Minister for State for Finance, M. Naseer Mengal, Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Riaz Fatyana, MNA, Kunwar Khalid Younas, MNA, Mrs. Kashmala Tariq, MNA, and Federal Secretaries of Finance, Food and Agriculture, Petroleum and Natural Resources and Statistics. The new body, impressive as it will appear to be under the obtaining circumstances, is stated to have been given task to propose measures to keep a check on the price level of various commodities in the country through a proper system of monitoring on daily basis. More to it, it has been authorized to co-opt any member to assist it in carrying out its work. All this, put together, will also make it appear that, seemingly, genuinely intrigued by the behaviors of prices over a rather long period, it has been deemed expedient to determine its causes and to do the needful to address the resulting disillusionment among the people all over the country.

A strong body to monitor price situation was long overdue in view of the unchecked price hike mounting inflationary pressures in the country. Increasing prices of petroleum products, electricity, gas, flour, ghee, sugar and other essential items of daily use has eroded the budget of the low income groups. The indifferent attitude of the government towards the price spiral has encouraged the profiteers and the hoarders. The cost of education and health care, which are the fundamental rights of the people have also registered unprecedented increase over the past few years manifesting a dismal state of government's apathy towards its primary social responsibility for the welfare of the people.

The vicious fortnightly increase in POL prices having a multiplier effect on general prices has become a mockery of the price stabilization process that the government boasts of so vociferously.

In this backdrop, there is a dire need of an effective body to monitor and control price situation with the task lashing at the exploiters who were fleecing the common man without fear of the law. Understandably, with inflation reportedly touching the double digit, such a body will have to work very hard to tame the jenny of price spiral in the country.

 

 

The advice to bring back the smiles of KSE came when the Prime Minister met the delegation of the senior officials including Moin M. Fudda, Managing Director of KSE, and Chairman SECP at the Governor House Tuesday night. Moin Fudda, while giving details of the PM's observation over the recent market crash, said that Security and Exchange Commission of Pakistan has also been assigned the task to unearth the real factors behind the recent debacle at the Karachi Stock Market, if the people were found involved in any form of maneuvering would be duly dealt with.

"We have to learn lessons from such events to avoid recurrence of such a situation," PM remarked. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz spelling out the economic turnaround and the growing economic fundamentals, said that the economy was well poised to hit 7 percent growth rate, which have placed Pakistan as one of the ten countries of high growth rate.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony of the building of Lasbela Textile Mills to the newly set up Lasbela University of Agriculture, the Prime Minister said that the government was determined to take steps to gear up exploration for oil, gas and metals in Balochistan for benefit of its people and the country.

The federal government has gifted to the university one bullion rupees textile mill, which was established some 20 years ago in collaboration with Iran over an area of 102 acres.

Shaukat Aziz said Balochistan was rich in natural resources including oil, gas, marble, granite, zinc, lead, copper and other minerals, the only thing required was to explore them for the benefit of the people of Balochistan as well as Pakistan. "We will use modern and latest technology for mining and exploration for oil, gas and other minerals in the province," he said. The Oil and Gas Development Corporation would expand its explorational activity in Balochistan to tap hydrocarbon potentials with a view to bring prosperity to the people of this province, said the premier.

The Chinese firms working at Saindak mining project had proposed doubling of copper production form the mine to meet the growing international demand. "They want to increase their investment in the project to enhance copper production from Saindak project," he said.

Similarly, the Prime Minister said, an Australian company also wanted to extract copper from a mine in Balochistan. Their exploration results were positive, he said, adding that these activities would benefit the people of Balochistan and spur economic activities in the region.

At the international seminar on Anti-money Laundering, the Prime Minister disclosed that anti-money laundering law was ready and would soon be moved to the parliament for approval. He said with the financial sector reforms in the last five years, the country's economy has improved. There is need for creating culture of compliance to the laws, change of behavior, and adhere to the conventions to fight menace of the money laundering. "Since money laundering could not be checked through legislation alone, therefore, there is need for strengthening national, social and political institutions, promoting rule of law, tackling corruption, improving economic status of people and raising their standard of living."

He said there is a strong link between the poverty and illegal activities, creating a macroeconomic structure within which commodity markets can grow freely, supporting alternative means of development and sources of income for farmers engaged in poppy cultivation, supporting education, and integrating global efforts for just solution of political issues.

The Prime Minister rightly said that money laundering cannot be checked through legislation alone. To deal with the menace, it is necessary to strengthen social and political institutions, promote rule of law and improve the living standards of the people to curb the lust for money laundering. Pakistan has suffered a great deal as a result of money laundering by certain state functionaries in the past. Not only the national exchequer was deprived of due to clandestine tactics of money laundering, but the country earned a bad reputation of being the second most corrupt nation in the world. Fiscal prudence is especially needed in the state functionaries, because it is established that corruption, kickbacks, money laundering are simply not possible without their connivance. That's what Pakistan has witnessed in the past decades. It's encouraging that President Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz are mindful of the menace and have been able to curb the tendency of corruption and kickbacks at the higher echelon of the country's administration. A greater effort is, however, needed to check the scourge of invisible money laundering in order to squeeze the lifeline of the forces of terrorism and anarchy.

At the launch of Gandhara week, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan was geared up to utilize its "unbelievable potential" in tourism and was working with the private sector to make the country an attractive tourist destination. "We wish to show the world our natural beauty, rich historical background dating back to thousand of years and our people who believe in peace and inter-faith harmony," he told the participants from many Asian countries at the launch of the Gandhara week.

Prime Minister Aziz dwelt at length about the abounding natural beauty of Pakistan's Northern Area, boasting of six of the world's highest peaks down to the plain where the Gandhara and Indus valley civilizations nurtured. He said Pakistan had a multifaceted rich heritage, divergent cultures and was the birthplace of ancient civilizations, which it desired to share with the world.

In his opening remarks at the three-day International Conference on Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the Prime Minister has pledged for advancing the MDGs agenda. He affirmed that gender equity and development cannot be achieved without the social, political and economic empowerment of women. While the political representation of women in Pakistan does the country proud, effective strategies for their economic empowerment will be put in place, as inalienable right, said Shaukat Aziz. The conference was jointly hosted by the Ministry of Women Development, All Pakistan Women Association and the United Nations System-Pakistan. Over 800 national and international delegates attended the inaugural session.

Addressing the participants at the reception in his honour held at Kashmore (Sindh) Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz declared that water reservoirs were imperative and would be built to meet water requirements of the country. "President General Pervez Musharraf and I promise to you that Sindh will not be deprived of even a drop of water of its share," and construction of dams would start soon.

The premier said the country had a long spell of rains and snowfall but bulk of the water was wasted because there were no additional reservoirs. "Had we constructed the dams, millions of acre feet rainwater would have been stored and ultimately used for meeting our agricultural needs in the times of shortage. If we have to save our lands and agriculture in future, this could be possible only by constructing new dams. The recent rains resulted in enough water for our crops and we will have very good forthcoming Kharif seasons which will ultimately bring prosperity for our farmers," he added.

Speaking at the cheque distribution ceremony to the victims of cooperative societies scam, the Prime Minister sounded a note of warning that people should refrain from investing in incredible schemes so that fraudulent element could not deprive them of their hard earned money. They should go only for the schemes approved by State Bank of Pakistan, Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and other regulatory bodies.

Reviewing the performance of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, during the last quarter, the Prime Minister had underlined the need for new initiatives and attracting investors to the agro-based industries to realize the full potential for the agriculture sector in Pakistan. He noted improvement in agricultural production in the recent years. He said the enhanced production had been possible due to increase in per acre yield, which reflected the success of the policies pursued by the government. The government, he added, attached the highest priority to agriculture, as it was the backbone of the economy and could bring a revolution in the lives of people in rural areas.