The Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Friday lauded the efforts of Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen to reduce the cement prices which have increased to historic highs hitting developmental projects.
FM Shaukat Tareen has advised the cement manufacturers to sell the commodity at affordable prices as cement is one of the main component of construction, it said.
Mr. Tareen should also direct manufacturers of steel bars to reduce their prices which has crossed all the limits, said Chairman PEW Brigadier (retd) Muhammad Aslam Khan.
He said that the prices of all the construction material are rising despite protests by builders which are hitting public sector and private sector projects.
The government has increased allocation for developmental projects by 40 percent in the current budget which include transformation of Karachi, construction of small and large dams, and other initiatives that need to be shielded from the price hikes, he said.
Similarly, he said, the government has allocated Rs30 billion for Naya Pakistan Housing Plan which should be completed within projected costs otherwise, it may not remain affordable for many aspirants.
Aslam Khan said that the prices of cement and steel is very high therefore the government should allow its import after reducing taxes.
Import of cement, steel, iron, and other items will stabilize the prices in the local market while authorities should direct the Competition Commission of Pakistan to probe allegations of collusion in the cement and steel sector.
It is an open secret that cement companies underutilize capacity when demand is low and; they stop colluding and prices go down but when demand strengthens, they get back their pricing power and raise prices in unanimity.
A cement bag that was supposed to be sold at Rs510 is now being sold at Rs670 while the price of steel bar has jumped from 112,000 per tonne to 167,000 per tonne which is not acceptable as these prices increases seem to be unfair and anti-competitive, he said.