It’s time the Prime Minister and his close circle come out of their echo chamber. Despite prices being on a steady rise, PTI ministers continue to harp on inflation being a global phenomenon. While prices are generally on the rise all over the world, what attracts people’s attention is Pakistan’s place in the ranking. The SBP’s Inflation Monitor for April 2020 showed that Pakistan’s residents witnessed the highest inflation in the world. This year it has been ranked the fourth most expensive among 43 countries of the world by The Economist. While the majority of the population feels the pinch, those below the poverty line are forced to cut down food intake. The combined impact of the petrol and power price hike is likely to set off a chain of consequences that even the most adept PTI spin doctors might not able to explain away. The continuous fall of the rupee would fuel inflation, curb growth and discourage investment. With the PM totally fixated on a single-point personal agenda of exposing the corruption of his political rivals, the problems faced by the people and the country have not been on the government’s priority list.
The government hopes to wade its way out of these financial woes through hollow promises. These include Asad Umar’s claim that Inflation would go down from March next year. One has heard more than once the promise to cut GST and customs duty by half and abolish two per cent additional customs duty on edible oil, thus introducing what is being described as a major targeted subsidy programme. We are told that the government is waiting for the arrival of the PM’s Finance Advisor to implement the promise. How much subsidy on a limited number of items the government can afford to provide to how many people has yet to be revealed. The government, we are told, also intends to provide a subsidy on petrol for bikes and rickshaws, while how to do this remains yet to be determined.
The tendency to shout down the opposition, rely on ordinances and bulldoze controversial bills has left the opposition with little choice but to take to the streets. The PDM has announced a 15-day protest against inflation. While the opposition has the right to protest one expects that its rallies will be peaceful and the protestors would abide by Covid-19 protocols.