The poor are feeling the pinch
The inflation in the country has hit a rapid upwardly mobile trajectory. Its pace at 9.1 per cent up from the previous year in the same month in October 2013 touched its highest level in 16 months. It comes on top of 7.4 per cent spike in September. This month-on-month increase is now a phenomenon that underlines the inflationary pressures due to unrelenting increases in the prices of utility services and other essential goods. The authority that determines the increase and decrease in prices of a basket of 487 goods and services – the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) – has determined that in October, the commodity group covering prices of housing, water, electricity, gas and fuels was up by 9.5 per cent over the same month last year. The weight of this particular group in the Common Price Index (CPI) basket is about 29.4 per cent. At the same time, the prices of perishable food stuff, the PBS reported, surged rose by 18.6 per cent while the clothing and footwear group rose by 14.6 per cent.
For the ongoing fiscal 2013-14, the government had set the inflation target at eight per cent, but independent economists paint a far gloomier picture: forecasting it to soar to double digits, at around 12 per cent. And, what the experts believe falls in the zone of ‘alarming’, the month-on-month inflation in October when compared to September rose by two per cent.
Whichever way one looks at it, these statistics are scary. And these are not mere statistics: the price increases so sharp impact lives, especially of those that are already on the fringe. While more and more are people being pushed down the poverty line by unchecked inflation sparked by the upsurge in fuel and energy rates, the attitude of the hierarchy is sort of ‘couldn’t care less’. The leading lights of the government are on an unending binge of foreign tours. The PM has spent most of his five months in office abroad, the finance minister rarely steps in on home soil, the Punjab CM has his own set of foreign destinations spanning across continents in a continuous jet-setting environment. All this when the poor are feeling the pinch, its snowball impact pushing millions of them down the poverty line – more fodder for the seminaries that indeed are the assembly lines for producing those deadly militants who have held the entire polity hostage. It was about time government stepped on to the plate to stem this unchecked rot.