Inflation

 
October 21, 2021

At a time when the world's economy is gradually returning back to pre-pandemic levels and stabilising, Pakistan appears to be facing a bigger crisis with no definite strategy to bring it out of this...

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At a time when the world's economy is gradually returning back to pre-pandemic levels and stabilising, Pakistan appears to be facing a bigger crisis with no definite strategy to bring it out of this situation. Former finance minister and now adviser to the PM Shaukat Tarin has resumed talks with the IMF in Washington, and rumours circulate that these talks may bring yet another hike in the prices of petrol, which already went up just a short while ago, along with electricity. But perhaps for people the most grave concern is the increase in the cost of the staple item that is used in the houses of the majority of Pakistanis wheat flour or atta. Two weeks ago, Shaukat Tarin had announced that a 20 kg bag of flour would be available for Rs1100. This would put one kg of atta Rs55. It seems however, that retailers and even those running government utility stores have simply not heard the finance minister. People on the streets report that it is impossible to purchase a kg of atta at anything below 60, 65, 70 or 75 rupees, and the atta available at Rs55 is said to be of poor quality. How then are people supposed to prepare roti, which is an item essential to every table in Punjab and the north of the country, as well as to many outside this region.

People put inflation as their most pressing problem. According to various surveys, people in the country cite inflation to be their biggest problem. This number has now grown to a whopping 98 percent. Quite obviously, inflation is hitting the people extremely hard and predictions that it could grow still further, as a result of the IMF agreement and due to other pressures out of which the government seems to have no way to move out, is creating still greater concern amongst almost every section of society, with low salaried people facing impossible choices such as bringing down further the quality of food they eat, removing children from school or delaying vital medical treatment. This is not a way in which any people, anywhere in the world should be forced to live.

The food price inflation and the inflation in energy prices have brought the opposition to the notion that an anti-government movement at this point could well succeed. All the parties seem united on the point that the government has to be placed under pressure for all that has been happening. While street protests are one way of doing this, there is also talk of moves within parliament to try and create pressure against the government. The government then faces an even harder time in the two years or less of government it has left. It appears unlikely that any solutions can be found. But perhaps the real question is whether the opposition itself is capable of finding some path out of the dark place within which we stand today.



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