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July 12, 2020

Anarchy alert

Business

July 12, 2020

LAHORE: Even after wasting billions from the national exchequer, this government has the guts to claim it has succeeded in reducing the prices of wheat and sugar. The sad reality is that this change-touting government sold these commodities at less than purchase price to hoodwink masses.

It goes without saying that engineered adjustment of prices never lasts long. The moment the subsidised supplies are withdrawn, the prices will shoot up again perhaps to even higher levels. Moreover, the subsidy is not being provided by the rulers from their own pocket, the government is bearing the cost.

The market behaviour depicts the disdain with which the market players treat this regime. When the government gives attention to wheat; the sugar rates would go out of hand.

It tries to control sugar rates the tomato rates would double overnight. The state has lost its grip totally now every tom, dick and harry is looking for the opportunity to fleece the consumers. There is control on standardisation, quality or weight and measures.

You find red chili powder mixed with red brick dust. The sellers charge the price of pure unadulterated chili powder, milk is invariably diluted with water; modern techniques have added other low-cost substances in the milk to sell it at high rates.

Turmeric is adulterated with cheap carcinogenic nonfood color. Medicated toothpastes are sold without any expiry date. Most edible items as well are marketed without a cutoff date. Instead of going for expensive and controlled hydrogenation of edible oil to convert it into ghee; many companies import high melting point palm oil varieties that are already over hydrogenated and injurious for health.

There is no respect for intellectual property right. You find cheap copies of famous world brands openly being sold even in posh markets of the country. No one fears regulators or the government. Encroachments are the order of the day. Periodic raids are conducted to increase the rate of bribe.

Phone snatching, street crimes and even dacoits are active in all cities. The criminals are seldom apprehended. The general belief is that they operate under the protection of influential segments of society. Police is inefficient and corrupt to the core.

They will make money whether you are a criminal or victim. The most unfortunate aspect in this regard is that the criminal will go free if he/she grease the palms more than the victim. In short there is anarchy in the society. Most of the people live in fear, the poor more so. Only few influentials live fearless lives by creating fear among all others.

There are two types of business activities: the genuine documented business and the non-documented business that pay no taxes.

The richer the documented businessmen, the more he/she is maligned as corrupt, looter, and anti-worker.

The richer the non-documented business operator the more respect she/he commands in public through philanthropic activities. The money donated or spend this way is a tiny part of the taxes evaded.

They are hoarders, smugglers, and underreporting or under-invoicing goods in the garb of documented business. When the government wants to show to the electorate about its seriousness against hoarding and overcharging raids are unleashed on small business outlets.

These outlets procure material from big guns at higher rates and cannot sell the same at lower rates. Why can’t the government apprehend the large stockists that control the prices?

For the big hoarder the government opens its coffers like the ones opened for sugar barons. The government bought sugar at high rate and disposed of it with a discount of Rs10 per kilogram.

This anarchy cannot last forever. People are now raising voice against injustice, corruption, and nepotism. Pressure is now building up on all segments of society. The poorest of the poor have always been voiceless and live in fear and shame.

The lower middle-class comprising people with low educational background are feeling the same pressure that poor used to feel two years back.

They are making muted protest. But the real middle-class comprising doctors, engineers, lawyers, professors, media persons, and chartered accountants are feeling the heat now as their jobs are at risk and incomes are declining.

They are the effective civil society and are at loss as to what went wrong.

They are now flexing their muscles to protest the misrule that has plagued our economy. It is high time the rulers realised the gravity of situation and restored government writ through transparent merit-based policies.