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Editorial: Artificial shortage

Hoarding is a major challenge that has not been addressed—at any level—by the previous and current governments. It seems that the traders are enjoying the ultimate decision-making power and can decide when to raise prices of the commodities. Using the free market for their advantage the businessmen are putting heavy burden on costumers. Purchasing power of the people have declined greatly but the relevant authorities are nowhere in sight to check the prices of fuel, gas and other communities and punish those who are charging extra to satiate their greed. People widely believe that the high-ranking officials are equally benefiting from the price hike.

The raising prices have ticked off the customers but the government is acting like a silent spectator. Seemingly, the leaders in the highest echelon of power have become part of the problem rather than solution. Every winter the businessmen hoard edible items, fuel and gas to create artificial shortage so they would charge the customers more than the real value. The demand and supply chain is going in par but yet the price hike has become a reality. No doubt that demand for fuel and gas increase in winter season but it does not affect the supply line. Exporters do not charge extra. The taxes remain the same. However, despite that prices of essential commodities touch the sky. Fuel is among the list of essential commodities.

Taking notice of the price-hike, the Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of the Afghan Parliament have decided to call up the  Deputy Minister of Commerce and Industries, chiefs of the departments of oil, gas and norm standard. The lawmakers would grill the summoned officials in order to find out the causes of the sky-rocketing price hike. Legislators acknowledge that it is not for the first time that prices of gas and fuel went up. In the words of Abdullah Mohammadi, a member of the Wolesi Jirga, mafia determines prices of gas and fuel. The parliamentarians also agree that people cannot afford to buy fuel for cocking and heating.

Interestingly, officials in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries say that it could not interfere to check prices of the essential commodities because the free market law has tied their hands. According to the ministry, prices of gas and fuel are determined by importers or what the government call the “private sectors”. In a nutshell, the government cannot help people in this aspect. The authorities claim to be helpless. So the public servants are no more able to serve the public.

Therefore, the Wolesi Jirga should interfere to provide relief to the nation by disqualifying those who are unable to address the public grievances. If there is any legal problem as the ministry of commerce claim, the lawmakers should draft laws that would keep prices of the commodities in check. Free market is a disease that the legislators should fight through laws and amendments. There is no other solution.

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