Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has unveiled a special Ramazan package, in which the Punjab government will pay Rs 4 billion to provide a subsidy which will make wheat available for Rs 430 for a 10-kg bag at the 322 Ramazan Bazaars to be set up throughout the province. However, if the subsidy is to achieve the desired result of obtaining public approval, it is necessary that the Ramazan Bazaars function efficiently and yield relief to the fasting citizen. Merely setting them up will not be enough; it will be necessary to ensure that lower prices are maintained, the ordinary citizen is afforded relief, and not forced by unscrupulous retailers to pay through his nose for items he may need in the month of fasting. While prices are to be maintained, retailers must not be allowed to do so at the expense of quality. Both prices and quality require an effective means of inspection. If the 1312 magistrates deputed to the task of price control carry out their task diligently, the Punjab government need look no further, but it should note that the Ramazan Bazaars require specific monitoring.
Another important factor the Punjab CM needs to consider, especially since this is the last Ramazan before fresh elections, is what happens to prices after Eid. He must ensure that similar measures are taken to make certain that prices are kept within reach of the ordinary voter. There is the additional inducement that if prices are kept down as a year-round ongoing process, there would be no need for the special measures taken every year, and the special effort made. The need to keep inflation in check may be made necessary by the advent of Ramazan, but with unemployment increasing, and an election around the corner, it becomes all the more necessary. As the sitting Chief Minister, who wishes to take his party into a general election, Mian Shahbaz must be very careful on this.