Call for powerful body to curb market irregularities

- RAJESH KHANAL, Kathmandu
Call for powerful body to curb market irregularities

Jul 2, 2015-

Commerce Minister Sunil Bahadur Thapa told the parliamentary Commerce, Industry and Consumer Welfare Committee on Thursday that Nepal needed a high-powered monitoring commission to check rampant black marketing and artificial price hikes as the existing monitoring mechanism had been unable to handle it.

White collar crime has risen sharply, and the government has been repeatedly criticized for its failure to protect consumer rights and guarantee fair prices and quality standards.

“The proposed commission has to be well equipped and complemented by various government agencies,” Thapa told the lawmakers. He admitted that the market monitoring being done separately by different government agencies had failed to provide relief to the general public. Lack of coordination among government bodies has often been pointed out for their inability to deal with the problem.

Thapa said that haphazard issuance of import licences had also encouraged traders to import substandard goods. “A rising dollar and increasing dependency on imported goods has also resulted in soaring market prices,” he said.

Lawmakers have frequently expressed concern at the rocketing prices of essential goods, zinc roofing sheets, construction materials, pulses and other food grain. Lawmaker Subhash Chandra Thakuri blamed weak government monitoring for the growing black market in zinc sheets. “People are being forced to pay up to Rs1,500-2,000 for a bundle of zinc sheets,” he said.

However, Minister Thapa attributed the zinc sheet shortage and price hikes to low domestic production. He added that the government had started importing zinc sheets through Salt Trading to boost stocks. The state-owned public enterprise has opened a letter of credit to import 50,000 bundles of zinc sheets, according to officials.

Meanwhile, the price of a truckload of sand has doubled to Rs8,000 from Rs4,000-4,500 while the cost of aggregates has jumped to Rs10,000

from Rs4,000. Government officials said that there was a shortage of construction materials. The price hikes have also been attributed to cartelling by traders.

Thapa told the House committee that prices of sand and gravel had gone up due to government policies restricting their extraction. He added that a lumbering bureaucracy was also to blame for essentials goods not reaching earthquake affected areas in adequate quantities.

Meanwhile, Shambhu Ghimire, spokesperson of the Ministry of Commerce and Supply, said that lack of a mechanism to determine the maximum retail price (MRP) had prompted traders to set arbitrary rates.

He added that the ministry had started work to fix the MRP of 12 more goods. The government has set the MRP of 12 products so far.

Shambhu Koirala, director general of the Department of Commerce and Supply Management, said that prices of cement and iron rods were stable in urban centres. “However, prices have jumped in rural areas due to poor monitoring there.”

The House committee has directed the Commerce Ministry to start work on forming a high-powered commission.

It has also instructed the ministry to speed up its plan to introduce a new trade policy and amend laws related to market regulation.


Published: 03-07-2015 08:31

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