Everyday troubles

As inflation continues its crippling rise, difficulties continue to increase for the citizens. From everyday commodities to utility bills, the numbers keep adding to the stresses of most

— Photo by Rahat Dar.
— Photo by Rahat Dar.

An ordinary Pakistani has many things to worry about. The perennially rising inflation is fuel to the fire. When inflation rises, it affects people’s buying power. To feed their families, low- and middle-income households are forced to adopt cost-cutting coping mechanisms to survive, sometimes without bare essentials.

Inflation is not a singular concern; many factors—like POL prices and dollar exchange rate surge directly influence it.

As per the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS), headline inflation rose to nine per cent in September from 8.4 per cent a year ago. It is pertinent to mention that headline inflation refers to the rate of change in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of the average price of a standard basket of goods and services consumed by a typical family.

This scribe talked to students, low-middle income men, labourers, fruit and vegetable sellers to understand what inflations mean for a common Pakistani.

The policies we legislate today influence our futures. Students, in many ways, represent our future.

“As a student living in Lahore, one learns cost-reducing methods to survive in the city,” says Manal Ahmad, a private university student. “Eating well is a challenge when something as basic as a plate of daal chawal costs Rs 150,” she says.

Ahmad explains, “the increasing prices have taken a toll on our buying power. From books and food to accommodation, nothing comes cheap,” she says.

“Transport costs alone are enough to break the bank. My rickshaw driver used to charge me Rs 6,000 a month, but now I am paying Rs 10,000,” says Aimen Asghar, a university student.

“The authorities must take appropriate action to provide relief to students struggling to pay for basic commodities,” she adds.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and inflation have made life harder for all. Even middle-income families are struggling to sustain the households,” says Mrs Iqbal, a housewife from Johar Town. “The daily groceries are costing nearly double what they did three years ago,” she adds.

Muhammad Kashif, a pushcart vendor from Wahdat Town, says, “the inflation is unbearable. I have to work hard to make ends meet. After paying rent and my children’s school fees, there is very little left with me. Why is the government not doing anything to provide relief to people like us?” he asks. Kashif worries for his children’s future. “The poor are getting poorer,” he says. “We have to think twice before buying even the basics, like flour and sugar.”

Muhammad Rizwan, another fruit seller, says his customers are losing their buying power with every passing day. Sometimes the fruit he brings from the wholesale market remains unsold and rots.

“Some people blame us, but inflation is affecting us all. The government needs to deal with the ‘powerful people’ working in organised groups that manipulate the markets,” says Rizwan. He adds, “Selling fruits following the rates set by the district government is difficult. We want to make some profit too.”

A daily wages labourer who sit at Akbar Chowk says, “it is virtually impossible to live in this city and support my family in my native south Punjab town..”

Commissioner Muhammad Usman and Deputy Commissioner Umer Sher Chattha say they have directed their price control magistrates to control inflation and ensure the provision of fruits, vegetables and essential commodities at prices set by the authorities. They say the government machinery is imposing fines on hoarders.

Inflation appears to be a difficult problem to manage for our policymakers. The real question is whether they are planning to provide relief to the general public. The answer lies in the decisions those in power take today. Coherent strategies, farsighted policies, and alert administration are the key to providing relief to the people.

The writer is a journalist based in Lahore

Everyday troubles