A rumour of price increase in petroleum prices created a frenzy and made people storm petrol pumps in major cities to get their tanks filled in order to secure a momentary relief. This shows that the situation can get out of control anytime as anger and frustration are growing and can lead to a major meltdown. Earlier an unprecedented hike of Rs. 60 in petrol prices triggered violent protests in various parts of the country and once again protest calls are being made to press the government to withdraw the price hike or make such policies for easing the life of a common man. Lately, industrialists and traders have threatened to join protests over the POL price rise in major cities. Industrialists mainly the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association have voiced their concern over the ever-increasing prices of petrol and persistent devaluation of rupees. This negative trend is making a very bad impact on the national economy. Besides affecting every household budget, the price hike of petrol and other fuels has brought industries close to closure. People are finding it difficult to meet their day to day needs as their buying power has been squeezed. Besides, the rates of almost all commodities are attached to the price of petroleum products. A warning by industrialists is a cause for concern as the closure of industries can result in the unemployment of millions of workers creating further chaos in society. On the other hand, the PML-N led government has satisfied itself by announcing an Rs. 28 billion relief package for the masses. The government has expressed its inability to reduce prices because the national exchequer cannot afford subsidies under the head of petroleum products.
A huge amount in the shape of foreign exchange is spent on the import of petrol while the trade deficit is alarmingly high. Traders and Industrialists do warn of protests and threaten to shut their industries but never want to be a part of the solution. They have never supported any government initiative to bring all industrial concerns into the tax net and use every means to evade the filing of tax returns. Secondly, our industrialists have failed to focus on the production of those value-added items that can earn hefty foreign exchange for the country. In fact, both traders and the government are stakeholders in bringing the economy on the path of progress. Both have to cooperate to end this brewing frenzy over petrol prices. Protests are not a solution to the problem while at the same time; apathy and inaction on the part of government are equally detrimental. The government needs to take industrialists into confidence and present a clear picture of the economy and make such policies that can help promote value-added industries. Pakistan textiles help earn hefty foreign exchange and the government needs to provide maximum relief to the textile sector. The government will have to seriously consider all these issues and all stakeholders will have to make decisions in the interest of the country.