It is unfortunate but true that the prices go up in Ramzan, and this year is no exception. Ramzan Bazars are being set up in the Punjab capital showing an alarming inflationary trend even before the holy month of fasting has begun. With this trend already visible, it is not difficult to see what effect the federal government’s implementation of the rise in oil prices will mean, as fruits and vegetables that are being sold on rising prices, have to be moved, and in vehicles powered by fuel grown more expensive. It is not to be forgotten that, as fares will go up, the movement of people will also become more expensive. While this may not be so much of a problem initially, when people go back to the villages and hometowns for Eid, it will become painful then, adding to the pain of trying to get a place on an outward bound vehicle or train. That the current fuel price rise came before the start of Ramzan means that the next two fortnightly price fixes will come during Ramzan, the second just before Eid. Even if there is a decline in the fuel price at the first, it will not have time to take effect in time for Eid, meaning that we are faced with an expensive Eid. It is almost as if the federal government wanted to ensure that it had a clearly discernible role in the price rise this Ramzan.

While the rise in fuel prices was perhaps to be expected, and came after declines, it was still a shock, though not as steep as in the past, with the per litre price of the benchmark HOBC went up to Rs 112.52, an increase of Rs 5.64. Prices have also climbed of fruits and vegetables, with the prices of 18 of 28 vegetables rising, and of eight of 27 fruits. This means that there was no effort to engage in the most effective method of price control, which is to increase the supply of goods to the market to the point where prices come within the reach of the common man. The scenario does not bode well for a government facing a general election within the year.

The provincial government must not only take immediate steps to ensure that prices of items of daily use, particularly those used in Ramzan, come down, while the federal government must reverse the fuel price increases it has imposed.