PRIME MINISTER Imran Khan and his cabinet are providing many justifications for the soaring price inflation: spike in global commodity markets, flawed policies of earlier governments and their corruption etc. But none is convincing enough for the public that has been struggling to cope with a sustained onslaught of elevated food and energy inflation for more than two years, and must now brace itself for another financial crunch as petrol, diesel and electricity prices reach new highs.
Meanwhile, food products such as flour, edible oil and ghee, sugar, vegetables and pulses as well as other daily essentials are becoming increasingly more expensive for low-middle-income households. The prime minister says his government is fully aware of the impact of inflation on the poor. That is debatable.
Comparisons of domestic food and energy prices with such regional economies as India and Bangladesh betray a total lack of empathy with the people. All arguments put forward and comparisons made by government functionaries are nothing but a vain attempt to obfuscate the reality and shift the responsibility for their own erroneous policies onto others.
Of all the economic challenges facing the country, high inflation remains the most crucial for the public. With the bulk of increase in headline inflation being fed by consistently surging food and energy prices, it is the present government’s policies and poor governance that are to blame for the crisis. Food inflation has shot up by 12.6pc in the first four months of the present fiscal. The impact of the upward adjustments in fuel and power tariffs is equally pronounced on the life of the average Pakistani.
Those of us who have recently been grocery shopping or filled their car or motorcycle tanks or paid their electricity bills know how steeply prices have jumped from a month ago. So when officials tell the ordinary citizen that Pakistan is still cheaper than many other countries they are only betraying their total disconnect with those reeling under the unbearable mass of inflation tax. With the prices of everything escalating left, right and centre, the ‘historic relief’ of Rs1,000 per family (of 6.5 persons) per month becomes meaningless for the recipients. Little wonder then that more and more people across the country are complaining of inflation now. The government would do everyone a favour by taking more serious action to mitigate the increasing economic hardship being endured by people in the wake of soaring inflationary pressures.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2021