The government has taken two steps which will only have inflationary effects: the weekly hike in POL prices, with the result that fuel prices have touched a new height. Petrol has gone up by Rs 6.82 per litre to Rs 106.72. Briefly having dipped slightly below Rs 100 per litre, it has gone back above that. At the same time, the Drug Pricing Committee, which comes under National Services and Regulation Ministry, approved a wide range of price increases for medicines ranging from ORS to cough syrups to vitamin tablets. The Committee met under the chairmanship of the Minister, Dr Firdaus Ashiq Awan, which was irregular. The increases show that the attempt to distance the government from price increases of essential items by means of regulatory authorities and pricing committees, has failed, because the responsibility clearly lies with the federal government. In the case of fuel prices, it claims the right to review OGRA recommendations. It must also be remembered that the government is not just an interested party because of the huge number of vehicles it operates, but because it imposes an array of taxes on fuel, including a carbon development levy that it is now using to help its finances instead of removing it and affording the consumer some relief. Similarly, the government cannot claim it is not influencing drug prices, not with a minister chairing the pricing committee. The latest fuel price hike not only made it more expensive to move people both intercity and intra-city, but also goods. This is where the really broad inflationary effect kicks in, as transport costs and commodity prices go up. With these increases coming weekly now, there is no price stability left in this sector. It seems a far cry from the time when fuel prices were changed only once a year, in the budget. Any fuel price increase between budgets was considered a mini-budget; now there are weekly mini-budgets, resulting in weekly profiteering by petrol pump owners. The government has established a reputation for callousness towards the common man by its indifference towards his sufferings because of petrol price hikes. It now wants to extend that to drugs, and it is being particularly callous in allowing cough syrups prices to be raised just before the advent of winter, when their demand is likely to go up. And raising the price of ORS in a country where there is so much infant mortality due to diarrhoea is going to hurt the poor. The government must reverse these price increases and evolve a mechanism to restore the price stability to fuel prices that it has itself undermined so badly.