Consequences of price controls

  • The Price Control Policy 2021 was a failed attempt to reduce food inflation in Pakistan by fixing maximum prices for certain items.
  • The policy created market distortions, shortages, smuggling, and fiscal burden, and did not lower inflation or benefit the poor consumers or the small farmers.
  • The policy was based on political motives rather than economic logic, and ignored the role of market forces and price signals in determining supply and demand.
  • The policy could have been replaced by a buffer stock scheme, where the government would buy and sell surplus crops to stabilize prices and encourage investment in agriculture.
  • The policy can be compared to similar policies in other countries, such as Egypt, where fixed bread prices led to shortages, subsidies, and social unrest.
  • The policy faced resistance from producers and traders, who resorted to smuggling and bartering to avoid the price controls and access more profitable markets.
  • The policy was a bad idea that harmed the economy and the society of Pakistan, and needs to be replaced by a better policy framework that improves the productivity and efficiency of the food supply chain.

What is Price Control

  • Price controls are government-mandated minimum or maximum prices set for specific goods and services.
  • Price controls are put in place to manage the affordability of goods and services on the market.
  • Minimums are called price floors while maximums are called price ceilings.
  • These controls are only effective on an extremely short-term basis.1
  • Over the long term, price controls can lead to problems such as shortages, rationing, inferior product quality, and illegal markets.


  • Protects consumers by eliminating price gouging
  • Helps producers remain competitive and profitable
  • Eliminates monopolies


  • Can lead to shortages and illegal markets
  • May create excess demand or excess supply
  • Often result in losses for producers and a drop in quality of products and service

Unlike the free market, where prices are dictated by supply and demand, price controls set minimum and maximum prices for goods and services. Price controls are usually imposed by the government to achieve certain social or economic objectives, such as making essential items more affordable, preventing price gouging, or stabilizing inflation. By enacting price control policies, governments and supporters of price controls hope that consumers can afford essential goods and services and producers can remain profitable. For example, some countries have used price ceilings to limit the cost of rent, gasoline, or food during times of crisis or shortage. Similarly, some countries have used price floors to support the income of farmers, workers, or other producers of important goods and services

However, critics say that price controls often have the opposite effect, leading to an imbalance in the market between supply and demand, and illegal markets. When prices are artificially low, consumers tend to demand more than what producers are willing or able to supply, resulting in shortages and rationing. When prices are artificially high, producers tend to supply more than what consumers are willing or able to buy, resulting in surpluses and waste. Moreover, price controls can create incentives for black markets, where goods and services are traded at unregulated prices, often with lower quality and higher risks. For example, rent control can lead to a shortage of housing, forcing some people to pay higher rents in the black market or live in substandard conditions. Similarly, minimum wage can lead to unemployment, forcing some workers to accept lower wages in the informal sector or remain idle.

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Read More: Express Tribune: Business Consequences of price controls Price Control Order market distortions soaring inflation Pakistan

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About Abu Hamza

Abu Hamza is member of Business Bee Staff

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