Wednesday December 01, 2021

Cost of survival

October 17, 2021

For the first time since records began to be kept, the price of all four major petroleum products are now above Rs100 per litre. In a move that will have a huge impact on people across the country, the government has increased the petrol prices, accepting Ogra recommendations, by Rs10.49 per litre and the price of high speed diesel by over Rs12.44 per litre. This means a litre of petrol will now cost Rs137.79. We ask a very simple question. How are people to manage? Even those in the salaried bracket will have a difficult time making ends meet given these challenges. This is especially true since the price of gas is also expected to go up and the price for electricity, under an agreement with the IMF, is to be raised by Rs1.39 per unit for the majority of consumers.

Already people across the country are struggling to manage. The petrol explosion means they will face an even more difficult time. This comes in combination with the increase in electricity prices on IMF dictates while there is also to be a reduction in tax subsidies and therefore more burden on the buyer with inflation of food price items now at above 11 percent. Overall inflation is above 9 percent. Wages simply do not keep up with these kinds of triggers. And the reports that there will be a severe gas shortage during the winter months, again due to the failure to purchase on-the-spot LNG and RLNG on time, simply add to the sense that life is becoming impossible. We already have a situation where people struggle simply to manage. Many have given up more and more items that were considered basic necessities to live. How they will cope with a still further heightening in the prices is impossible to imagine. In a nation where one-third of the people live below the poverty line, where malnutrition, including hunger among children, is widespread and where only a minority of people receive the nutrients they need, it is criminal to impose such a price hike on people in order to meet IMF dictates. It is true that it is difficult for Pakistan's finance managers to find a way out of the trap they have placed themselves in, with a withdrawal from the IMF programme possibly bringing difficulties as well. Pakistan has a huge debt servicing bill and needs loans to manage its debt as well as other costs. At the same time, the current account deficit is rising, and the rupee is falling against the dollar.

But these are not the concerns of those we call the 'ordinary' people of Pakistan. They are not the concerns of the people whom Imran Khan had promised to serve during his campaign for prime minister and during his early years in office. In fact, he had twice promised not to increase the prices of electricity any further and then done precisely that. The question is, who are people to depend on when it is the government itself which is literally pushing them to a point where survival becomes impossible.