Who benefited the most from the Sugar crisis?

Who benefited the most from the Sugar crisis?

Tahir Ali Khan

Jahangir Tareen has said that he has provided 20,000 metric tonnes of sugar to the utility stores at Rs 67 per kg, thus benefiting the people with 25 million.

This means that they has incurred loss and benefitted of the public by selling it at Rs 67 per kg, Rs thirteen rupees less than the market rate (of Rs 80 per kg).

When the PTI government was set up in August 2018, the retail price of sugar was 53 and the wholesale price was Rs 47 per kg.

According to the data given in the link below, in the fourteen months up to December 2019 in the current government, the retail price in the country increased to Rs 80 and wholesale price to Rs68. Thus, the price of sugar in retail increased by Rs 27 and wholesale by Rs 21 per kg.

Total sugar production in Pakistan is about six billion kilograms. In this way, the sugar makers got an additional Rs.162 billion on the basis of additional Rs 27 per kg. If we base our estimate at Rs 21 per kg, they get an additional Rs 126 billion. Even by careful estimates, they will get an extra Rs100.

If Jahangir Tareen had sold these twenty metric thousand tonnes or two crore kilograms of sugar to the utility stores at Rs 53 per kg, it would have been worth one billion and six crore rupees, but, he said, he sold it at Rs 67 per kg. Thus, its total value goes up to Rs.1.34 billion. Thus, he got an additional profit of Rs. 28 crores against the previous year rate.

According to him, he made a profit of Rs 25 crores by selling the utility stores at Rs 67, less than the market rate but he did not say that how many billions were earned by his sugar companies as and when they sold hundreds of millions of kilograms of sugar by selling it at a rate Rs27 higher than the previous year.

Remember that according to the FIA report on the Sugar crisis, the Punjab government had given an export subsidy of Rs. 2.6 billion to the sugar companies, out of which the companies owned by Mr Tareen got Rs 56 crore.

It is reported that Tareen’s companies account for 18-20 percent of the sugar production in Pakistan.

Of the six billion kilograms of sugar sold in the country, the share of his companies is 20 percent (ie 1.08 to 1.2 billion kilograms), so on account of this, his companies may have pocketed an additional Rs 29 to 32 billion more than the previous year.

And even if you reduce his sugar share/sale by half, he is estimated to still have got an extra 15 billion rupees.

This shows why his companies’ profits increased by more than a hundred percent recently as per official figures.

Covid-19: A Blessing in Disguise

Covid-19: A Blessing in Disguise

By Tahir Ali Khan

“I have a generator which I used to rent to locals but that is not possible anymore as Manga is closed. We are confined to home for last ten days for lockdown after the case of Saadat Khan came to surface. We are working in the fields and catering to the melons. We need plant-spray but it is hard to get as markets are closed. Life is difficult but we must avoid social interaction. I believe there is no difference between shooting people with a gun and shaking hands by a Coronavirus infected person with others,” says Safiullah Khan, a resident of Manga, a town lying some 6km from Mardan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan.

Manga is the home town of Saadat Khan who was the first Corona patient in Pakistan who had contracted Covid-19 in Saudi Arabia while performing Umra there. On return, Khan met, hugged and arranged a banquet for villagers despite clear symptoms and warnings by health officials to keep aloof from all with the result that he not only succumbed to Covid-19 himself a few days later but also infected scores of persons including his villagers, family members and a lady doctor who had met him.

Pakistan has over 4000 confirmed Corona-infections and 60 related deaths so far while there are respectively over 1.4 million and over 82 thousand Corona cases and deaths worldwide. Billions worldwide stand badly impacted by closure of businesses and supplies, home-confinement and joblessness. Millions are in danger of dying from the virus, hunger, slow and insufficient trace/test/treat response and infrastructure on part of the governments and acute carelessness and irresponsible behaviour on part of the people if the virus attack continues. As per the Washington Post, `US fatalities could be over 200,000 soon.

The Covid-19 impact on Global economy and Pakistan economy is estimated at $2.7 trillion and upto $4.95 billion respectively and there are gloomy forecasts for harsh economic conditions ahead, the world, however, is trying hard to contain and tackle the deadly pandemic and its aftershocks.

The World Bank Group has announced $14 billion package. ADB has announced $6.5 Billion initial response aid and the IMF to deploy $1trilion loan capacity to help sustain economies and protect jobs. Pakistan PM too has announced Rs1.25 trillion Covid-19 relief package. China has sent two planes-load of medical aid to Pakistan.

With self regulation, social distancing and care by the people and joint efforts of the public and private organizations across the globe to contain the virus and ensure proper treatment, the threats of COVID-19 may disappear sooner rather than later. But there is a silver lining behind the COVID-19 cloud. The lessons learnt during the calamity are likely to make life easier, happier, simpler and more pleasant than pre-Corona age in the world.

Covid-19 is a defining time. It will long be remembered for the lessons it taught, the opportunities it provided and the changes it brought in life patterns worldwide.

And the people at large have become kinder and friendlier. Enormous Cash-help and food-packages are being widely distributed to the poor in every nook and corner of the country. While the federal and provincial governments are making plans to deliver aid soon, aid organizations and philanthropists in Pakistan are already offering relief to the poverty/Covid-19 stricken people.

Home Confinement, almost nil social distancing for fear of contracting virus, closure of educational institutions, decreased office timings and reduced attendance in offices have afforded great opportunities for talking to near and dear ones at home, studying books, taking exercises, writing diaries/books and reports, watching movies, chatting with friends on social media and discussing things with family members. It has taught us that in the end it is your own family and home that keeps you safe and happy when you are in trouble and need support.

There is less noise-pollution and air pollution. With less traffic on road and industries coming to a halt during the crisis, according to a report in Nature, the ozone layer is continuing to heal and has the potential to fully recover.

The calamity has helped ease political polarization between PM Imran Khan and his political opponents on one hand and the federal government and the Sindh government on the other. Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of Late Benazir Bhutto, recently offered support to PM Khan as well as Shahbaz Sharif, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan’s National Assembly and brother of former PM Nawaz Sharif. Hard critic of Khan Maulana Fazlur Rehman of JUI (F) too has avoided criticism ever-since the crisis began. PM Khan, though, has shown no urgency to respond in same coin.

Covid- 19 has once again shown that our health system has remained underfunded, under equipped, under-staffed and under-developed. And if the matchless hardwork and sacrifices of our insufficiently equipped/endangered doctors and the Pakistan Army and private charity and welfare organizations were not there, we certainly would have seen more dreadful scenario by now.

It has brought home the point that there are highly insufficient hospitals with very few ventilators, testing facilities and per capita bed availability.

According to a World Bank report, there were only 0.6 hospital beds for 1,000 people in 2014 in Pakistan against 3 in Trinidad and Tobago and 2.7 in Saudi Arabia while Gallup Pakistan says in 2015, the population per bed ratio in Pakistan was 1613 which is larger than US’s 350, Japan’s 85 and India’s 1050. And there were 14073 health facilities for 191.7 Million persons i.e. a health facility for 13622 persons.

As per the data of Pakistan’s National Institute of Health NIH Pakistan, by March 31, Pakistan had performed 14658 corona tests of which 1865 are positive which are 13 percent of the total. China, against this, tested over 1.5 million people per week.

The disaster thus has made bare the lack of health infrastructure, lack of modern equipments, insufficient trained personnel and financial resources to cater to the needy in our emergency response programme to deal with the crisis. It necessitates better planning and more money for comprehensive development of the country’s fragile health infrastructure to be able to cope with suchlike disasters in future.

We must therefore allocate more funds for health system for research, development and training and ensuring sufficient medical equipments. The federal government should divert at least 30 per cent of the development and 50 per cent of non-development expenditures to trace, test, treat and support the Corona affected people and build sufficient health infrastructure.

Tracing, testing and treatment of the Covid-19 infected persons and financial support to the poor during/after lockdown is a massive challenge. This can hardly be done by the government alone. National and international donors and relief organisations should also help it cope with the calamity. The importance of close collaboration and coordination among governments, departments and masses, thus, can’t be overemphasized as it keeps from wastage of resources, allocation imbalances and less effective response.

As against some nations hit the most by the virus, Pakistan’s population remains have so far remained mostly safe and this despite widespread public disinclination to take care and avoid mingling with one another. One of the major reasons behind this is the youth ratio in Pakistan’s population which as per unicef Pakistan, has 68 percent population under the age of 30. We all know youngsters in this age have strong immunity against contagious diseases.

Health officials here were not popular earlier. But with their hardwork, selfless service, empathy and untiring efforts in the battle against the Covid-19 despite lack of medical equipments, Pakistani doctors are widely loved these days.

There are religious, medical, psychological, administrative, legal and moral aspects of the Corona-virus issue, therefore consolidated efforts are needed from all the sides and experts. Special care must be made to help and save persons with disabilities.

Tahir Ali Khan is a Mardan-based academic and writer. He blogs at www.tahirkatlang.wordpress.com and can be reached at tahirkatlang039@gmail.com

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