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April 9, 2021

Pandemic economy

Business

April 9, 2021

LAHORE: The developed economies are exhausting their resources to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on their citizens, but they have little cash for poor nations who have to cope with Covid-19 impact on their own.

At the same time the global commodity rates are on the rise. Steel and other metals prices are increasing. Global food prices registered rise for the tenth straight month. All this is happening at a time when our food import bill has reached historic high. Three years back we had a competent -though corrupt- bureaucracy. The faces in the bureaucracy are the same but their performance is down in the dumps.

The public at large is stunned. They were used to corrupt practices in the past but their problems were resolved at some cost. The power sector workforce assured minimum disruptions in power supplies as their palms were greased.

The gas distributors were efficient and arranged gas imports in time to assure better supplies. Today we produce more power than we could consume. Still the suppliers are erratic.

We continue to pay capacity charges to the power producers instead of finding out a formula under which we ask the power generating company to produce power (strictly on merit) and avoid shortages.

We are simply trying to save the fuel cost by not asking a few companies to start supplying electricity to the national grid so that shortages are fully covered.

It looks silly that even when we have excess power producing capacity the government has warned the industries that there would be power cuts during the month of Ramazan.

The inefficiencies in all utilities in the public sector are at their lowest ebb and the consumers are suffering. The law and order situation has also declined. This government makes citizens suffer for days on a regular basis when some segment of the society opts to block roads and disrupt traffic at important traffic points and highways in different parts of the country.

This was not so during the tenure of earlier governments. The cost of these disruptions is very high. Patients lose their lives because of their inability to reach hospitals. Workers lose their wages or even employment because of these traffic jams. The rush thus created is one of the major reasons for the spread of Covid-19.

The inability of this government to control rates of essential daily use items has now been well established. The Punjab government even after deputing all its ministers and top bureaucracy has not been able to make sugar available at Rs85/kg at the retail outlets. Public at large has learnt to live with the high edible rates by curtailing food intake to the minimum.

Treatment of Covid-19 patients needing hospitalisation is an uphill task. The facilities at government hospitals are only for media consumptions. In private hospitals the room charges for Covid-19 patients is three times as expensive as a five star hotel room in Pakistan.

In government hospitals the patients complain that doctors (that are on duty 24/7) seldom visit the wards. One or two visits during the day are made while it is difficult to find a doctor in the evening.

The serious Covid-19 patients are at the mercy of the hospital staff as the relatives are not allowed to visit their patients for their own safety.

They remain in dark about the progress or fate of their dear ones as the communication from hospital staff is based on bribes only.

Initially only a few private hospitals earmarked a floor of their facility for Covid-19 patients and in view of exorbitant charges made a fortune only on room charges. Then there are other charges as well like oxygen, medicines, and ventilator (if needed). Now scores of hospitals have established special Covid-19 areas and are ruing for starting this facility late.

It is strange that the occupancy in five star hotels is extremely low (due to travel restrictions) but you need a solid connection to get a room at Covid-19 private hospital. Can’t some five start hotels be converted into Covid-19 hospitals? The wealthy can afford this high cost of treatment.

They have no choice as they cannot travel to a developed country with Covid-19 symptoms. But the middle-class families with comparatively little resources look for cover after seven days of hospitalisation of their dear ones.

They sell assets in a hurry and many times see the futility of their effort when the body is handed over to them. This speaks volumes of the loss of the writ of the government.