ISLAMABAD, Dec 30: The back-breaking price hike in the federal capital, more conveniently known as the city of the baboos (white collar workers), during the outgoing year not only disturbed the standard of living of the lower middle class but also restricted their access to basic necessities of life.

A survey conducted by this reporter showed that the prices of 36 daily-use items witnessed an upward trend compared to last year. However, prices of only three items recorded a marginal decline, while that of three others remained unchanged.

The prices of items commonly used by the low income group witnessed massive hike during the year.

The people criticised the government for its failure in containing the prices which eroded their purchasing power.

According to the survey, the prices of pulses registered a phenomenal increase during December 2006 over the corresponding period last year. The prices of moong (washed) went up by 32 percent, mash (washed) 43 percent and gram (washed) by 48 percent.

This increase was despite the government’s subsidies announced a few months back to stabilise the rates of the commodities in the market.

Among other items, the prices of onions and tomatoes increased by 163 percent and 133 percent, respectively. Prices of salt, red chillies and garlic also increased by 20 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent.

Despite this surge in the prices, the government continued to brag to the world about its macroeconomic growth, amassed foreign exchange reserves, but was indifferent towards the plight of the poverty-stricken population.

A housemaid told this reporter that she could not provide enough food to their children due to the unprecedented price hike. “I am working in three houses from dawn to dusk but am unable to meet monthly expenses of my family,” she lamented.

The increase in the energy price was another gift of the government. The prices of gas rose by 20 percent, petrol 2.5 percent and diesel 4.16 percent during December 2006 compared to the corresponding period last year.

Ahsanullah, a lower division clerk, said his utility bill had increased from Rs300 to Rs2,000 — a good half of his whole salary.—Our Reporter

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