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Saturday December 04, 2021

Unjustifiable comparisons

October 23, 2021

LAHORE: Ruling elite and some government functionaries are trumpeting the failures of the state policies as a huge success, which is benefiting the population at large.

When the media highlights price hikes, spokesmen from the treasury point out that prices globally have increased more sharply than in Pakistan during the last one year. Statistically, they are right, but they conveniently ignore the fact that prices of all commodities in Pakistan increased to record levels even before the pandemic hit the world.

Prices continue to increase from a high base and hurt Pakistanis more than other countries that saw price spikes after Covid-19. There is no justification for the increase in the rates of wheat flour or sugar in the pre-pandemic period.

This government itself initiated investigations in this regard and the reports of these investigations revealed that price hikes were triggered by hoarders and speculators, some of whom were sitting in the government and continue to do so till this day.

Sugar and wheat are locally produced commodities. The depreciation of the rupee had little impact. The hikes were triggered by mafias that are still operating with impunity.

The rate of edible oil did increase because of a hike in global prices, but the impact in Pakistan was sharper because the import duty of edible oil was doubled by this government.

It has realised its folly and has reverted to the previous duty structure. Rupee depreciation did impact the price of this commodity.

State Bank of Pakistan governor even found a positive impact of the ever depreciating rupee. This according to him has benefitted the families of Pakistanis, who get higher amounts against the remittances sent by Pakistani workers.

He conveniently ignored that depreciation has increased our foreign debt in local currency. He did not point out that the cost of all imports has increased and that cost is borne by Pakistani consumers.

Government functionaries proudly point out that even after hefty increases in the rates of petroleum, the rates in Pakistan are still cheaper than regional economies. They remain mum when it comes to the electricity tariff that is the highest in the region.

They do not compare the rates of sugar in Pakistan with that in India. The official spokesmen do not confess that the per capita income in Pakistan is the lowest in the region comprising India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China.

The spokespersons of the state point out that average income in the country increased. In view of the high inequality in our culture, the poor do not even get a trickle of that increase. The trickle down impact is visible when the economy grows above 6 percent.

We have seen growth of 1.9 percent, -0.4 percent and 3.94 percent in the last three years. This growth rate hardly covers the annual increase in our population.

It is possible to malign the image of individuals through constant false propaganda, but you cannot create the aura of prosperity through false or managed statistics. Those who live in starvation or are suffering from malnutrition would never buy these statistics.

The patients who have stopped taking medicines because of abnormal increases in prices know that they are slowly moving towards miserable death. They consider such lofty government claims as an insult to their injury.

Corruption is the root cause of all ills in Pakistan. Violating rules is a corruption, but it is condoned and accepted in our country.

We have constantly been placed among the most corrupt countries by Transparency International.

The state is short of resources, which could be greatly reduced if corruption is checked. It is not advisable to go on increasing subsidies when corruption is rampant.

The subsidies that the government is doling out left and right are providing opportunity to the corrupt to retain their share from those allocations. Someone is making regular income from shelter homes. Others exploit opportunities to make some bucks on a regular basis while managing the free food outlets.

There is no logic in comparing the prices in Pakistan with other countries. The comparison does not reduce the miseries of Pakistani consumers where poverty is on the rise.

The middle-class is shrinking. Only the rich are in the driving seat. They are not impacted by the price hikes because they recover the high costs from the sales of products they manufacture or import and the services they provide.