PEW calls for reining in cement cartel

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Economy Watch (PEW) on Sunday called for some kind of control over cement sector, which continues to thrive at the cost of masses and construction industry providing employment to millions. Cement industry continue to increase prices without any justification which amount to plundering masses while Competition Commission of Pakistan and other concerned departments prefer to remain silent spectators, it said. International prices of oil and coal have come down substantially but the cement industry has not provided any relief to masses rather it continue to increase prices, said Dr Murtaza Mughal, President PEW. Talking to the representatives of construction industry, he said that increasing cement prices pose a threat to economic corridor, mega project and construction activities.

A bag of cement that was available for Rs 350 in October 2011 now costs Rs 530 while cement industry is planning another hike, he said. Dr Murtaza Mughal said that increasing prices have reduced export of cement considerably which must be noticed. During six month to December 2015 the cement exports dwindled by over a million tonnes due to high prices, he said. Year ago the Competition Commission slapped a fine on Rs6 billion on cement cartel but the decision was reversed after interference by the then finance minister. Since then, the CCP has decided not to check the influential sectors involved in unfair business practices. He noted that the cement cartel increased prices by 26 percent in one year boosting profit almost seven fold but the authorities decided to ignore the matter. The cartel must be punished and import of cement should be encouraged to protect masses, he demanded.

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