Seller’s Market and Monopoly

Seller’s Market and Monopoly

In any part of the world, come festival times or months of significance and import, massive price discounts across the board are the order of the day. This accrues not merely out of respect for special, festive occasions but also from pure and sheer business: the more you sell, albeit at discounted prices, the more money you will make because of volume sales. But, in our part of the world, this dictum or even paradigm gets inverted. Prices during festive and special times are raised( sometimes even exponentially). Most of us would relate to this insalubrious trend during the Holy month of Ramadan. It is no secret that vendors and shopkeepers across the board raise prices especially of day to day commodities. Be it the local reddiwalla, the vegetable walla, the butcher or the chicken seller, all raise prices. While this defies business sense, given that increased volume albeit at lesser prices would have increased profitability, the practice is highly unethical and even immoral. In the month of Ramadan, for instance , it amounts to stating the obvious , that there is a voluminous increase in the consumption basket of people , regardless of class and economic status. But, the burden of the increased consumption falls disproportionately on the poor because of higher prices charges by sellers. The market here then is a seller’s market, defying convention and normal practice elsewhere where the buyer is king(or queen, as the case may be). (The problem is so acute that the seller here while selling his or her ware, product or service thinks that he is doing the buyer a favor!). This condition and state of affairs must change and some equilibrium arrived at between buyers and sellers which should be reflected in prices. That the initiative and impulse for the review and the concomitant change will not come from traders or business persons is to, yet again, state the obvious. This then is a policy issue and problem that can best be addressed by a regulatory fiat and injunctions that make it illegal to make profits beyond a point. Price ceilings must be set over a slew of essential products selling beyond which should be illegal and liable to punishment. Given that we are in the midst of Ramadan, it may be prudent and even desirable for this review to take place now, that is, at a time when the consumption basket’s burden on the poor is maximum.