Govt to probe rise in cement prices

Govt to probe rise in cement prices
Published: 03 April 2006

The Pakistan government has decided to probe the causes of rising cement prices and the ministry of industries and production has issued notices to the cement manufacturers to give exact reasons of the abrupt surge in prices, a senior government official told the Daily Times on Saturday. The government, which is facing a severe criticism over its mishandling of ensuring the availability of sugar at reasonable prices, is likely to face yet another public resentment over the high prices of cement. The price of the commodity is increasing at a time when people of the earthquake-hit areas are about to begin the reconstruction of their devastated houses.

The increase is also seen as a big blow to the government’s own development plant. The managers of the development schemes use to speed up the implementation process of projects in the last three/four months to meet the deadline of June 30. The crisis in the offing is the repetition of the mess, which had been witnessed by the public around the same months of the last fiscal, according to the official.

The cement price is now well over Rs 320 per bag in most parts of the country. This is a sharp increase as the commodity was available at around Rs 260 just a month back. This is an abrupt surge in the prices and the cement consumers are suffering. The official said that around 10 cement firms have informed the government about the recent hike in prices. They said that cement consumption has increased due to which the cement prices went high.

One of the leading cement-makers has informed the government that its expansion plan was put on hold due to leaving of Danish mechanical engineers after publication of sacrilegious cartoons in a paper in Denmark. Danish engineers were working with the firm on its expansion plan. In this regard, the Minister for Industries and Production, Jahangir Khan Tareen, will be holding a crucial meeting with cement manufacturers on Monday in Lahore.

When contacted, an official of the ministry of industries denied that the ministry was about to investigate the abrupt hike in cement prices. “We are going just to analyze the issue jointly with cement-manufacturing firms,” he added. He said that the notices issued to the cement-makers were aimed at knowing the exact reasons for the hike. This should not be taken as a step that the government was taking any disciplinary action against the cement industry.

Public-sector organizations have submitted several complaints with the ministry of planning and development that the increase in cement prices could enhance the cost of their development schemes. They are of the view that the government has taken no necessary step to avert the crisis. The consumers faced a similar situation around the same time in the last fiscal. Now they are set to face yet another price hike, and the policy makers remained unable to take the appropriate steps this financial year, the official said.