Public calls for action
Despite several irregularities being revealed in the sugar inquiry report, the price of sugar is still holding up at in between Rs80 and Rs85 throughout Punjab, showing no sign of coming down as consumers were expecting after the report was made public.
The report revealed the sugar mills and their owners who have unlawfully benefited from the sugar industry but its effects have not trickled down to the public, as they have been buying sugar at almost the same price as before.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Accountability Shahzad Akbar has claimed that the government will have the sugar price reduced in the country after the report revealed that the commodity is sold at artificially high prices.
However, according to sugar dealers in the wholesale market, the sugar mills have reduced prices by a mere Rs1. Meanwhile, farmers’ associations have demanded that sugar mills should reduce their prices because they are buying sugarcane at a lower price from farmers.
Consumers are now demanding that since it has been confirmed that sugar has been sold at inflated prices and the people behind this have been identified, the price of sugar should be reduced.
The industry has yet to revise sugar prices although government officials have been claiming that action has started following the inquiry report.
Akbar said that cases have been sent to Competition Commission of Pakistan, FIA, FBR and State Bank.
He said these departments will have to take action within 90 days in subsidy, cartelization, corporate fraud, tax evasion, benami (off the book) transactions and money laundering cases.
The special assistant added that the prime minister is adamant that the case be pursued till the end and is only concerned with the interests of the public.
He went on to say that action will be taken against those involved in these irregularities in the sugar industry and the artificial price hike. Akbar also said that the government will forcibly reduce the price of sugar.
Sugar consumption in the country is 5.2 million metric tonnes. A Rs1 manipulation in the cost of production translates into a windfall gain of Rs5.2 billion, according to the inquiry commission. In the last five years, the industry has been manipulating the cost by Rs10, Rs12 and Rs15 each year.