The gap

November 17, 2019

Our cabinet is up in the Moon; the other 210 million Pakistanis down below. Up in the Moon, tomatoes sell for Rs17 per kilogram. Down below, tomatoes sell for Rs320 per kilogram. Up in the Moon,...

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Our cabinet is up in the Moon; the other 210 million Pakistanis down below. Up in the Moon, tomatoes sell for Rs17 per kilogram. Down below, tomatoes sell for Rs320 per kilogram. Up in the Moon, peas sell for Rs5 per kilogram. Down below, peas sell for Rs100 per kilogram. Up in the Moon, helicopters cost a paltry Rs55 per kilometer. Down below, Uber and Careem cost as much.

Up from the Moon, the IMF looks angelic. Down below, a million Pakistanis have lost their jobs. Up in the Moon, the cabinet is exchanging congratulations for fulfilling all of IMF’s conditionalities. Down below, four million Pakistanis have been pushed into poverty. Up at the Moon’s surface, the cabinet can easily jump up 10 feet (because the Moon’s gravity is only 17 percent that of Earth’s). Down below, gas bills have gone up from Rs2.5 per unit to a high of Rs6 per unit.

Up in the Moon, the cabinet does not have to worry about the atmosphere because there’s none. Down below, Lahore witnessed the worst air quality in the whole wide world. I checked, on average, the distance between Earth and

the Moon is 384,400 kilometers – and that’s how far our cabinet is from an average resident of Lahore.

In the late-1700s, Queen Marie Antoinette was told that “people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages”. The Queen replied, "Qu'ils mangent de la brioche" or “Then let them eat cake” (the French Revolution began in 1789 and the Storming of the Bastille took place on 14 July 1789).

Let’s talk about solutions. To begin with, the cabinet would have to come down from where it is – 384,400 kilometers down. Next, the cabinet must understand that inflation is an extremely serious issue. Yes, Pakistanis are in pain – some in excruciating pain. A recent poll conducted by Gallup & Gilani, “Fifty-three percent of Pakistanis identified inflation as the biggest problem while 23 percent said unemployment was a major problem for the country. Only four percent of the people identified corruption as the major problem.”

Next, we must understand that what we are up against is ‘cost-push inflation’ which is caused by an increase in prices of inputs like the price of electricity and gas. What we are up against is not ‘demand-pull inflation’ where “aggregate demand in an economy outpaces aggregate supply.” So, there’s no way out but to radically reform both the electricity and the gas sectors. Unfortunately, we haven’t even taken the first step towards that.

Next, the government has taken in some Rs2 trillion in the form of expensive electricity, gas and additional taxation. As a consequence, an average Pakistani’s purchasing power has fallen like ninepins. With little or no disposable income there’s very little demand for goods and factories are, therefore, closing down. That means unemployment – and a further dent in demand. The government must focus on breaking this vicious cycle.

From up above, the cabinet is bent upon giving us the Moon and the stars. Down below, all we are asking for is tomatoes and onions.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: farrukh15hotmail.com Twitter: saleemfarrukh


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