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Jun 01, 2020 PRINT EDITION
Editorials

What after allowing goods transport?

The government has done the right thing by lifting the ban on inter-provincial transport of goods even as the number of infected cases and deaths from the coronavirus increases by the day. Not only will this decision help meet demand for essential items a

Updated April 01, 2020

The government has done the right thing by lifting the ban on inter-provincial transport of goods even as the number of infected cases and deaths from the coronavirus increases by the day. Not only will this decision help meet demand for essential items as the lockdown stretches on, it will also ensure work and wages for some of the country's lowest earning groups. Such, unfortunately, is the state of the economy that should things get out of control a lot more people can and will die from hunger and starvation than the disease itself. It is therefore of utmost necessity that food shelves remain stocked so that price gouging is controlled and panic does not set in.
But necessary, and therefore welcome, as this decision is, its implementation has yet to begin. Goods transport is conspicuous by its absence on the roads and truck stands remain idle as a testament to bureaucratic inertia to implementation of even the prime minister's announced steps. There is therefore an urgent need to have a mechanism to follow up and check the execution of policies or orders issued in Islamabad. Allowing food transport is one thing but with all outlets still closed and how exactly will farmers sell all their produce, especially since time for the Rabi crop has come? And how will farmers repay their loans, mostly to the middleman (arthis) on whom they rely for their financial needs? Let's not forget that there's still no way of really knowing just when the coronavirus threat will even begin to recede and, hence, how long the lockdown will remain in force. Curtailing supply chain disruptions, therefore, is just as important as other crucial measures like social distancing, etc. Otherwise shortages will quickly emerge, hurting everybody and disrupting the lockdown as well.
The government should follow its decision to allow inter-provincial goods transport by slowly opening up carefully identified marketplaces for commerce; while allowing only the most necessary type of movement, of course. That will, once again, keep the supply chain from breaking while stimulating the informal economy as well. It will also mean less daily wagers will have to worry about their next meal. No doubt civil society will have to play along and make sure people's carelessness does not upset the government's risk management efforts. It has precious little resources to play with. Using them optimally, given that there's still no hint of an expiry date on this emergency, is going to be impossible unless everybody plays a part. The decision to keep essential items flowing shows that the thinking is correct. Unfortunately, however, its implementation in full measure is still lacking.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020