In the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic, most countries are facing economic crisis, especially in the developing world. On one hand, life became miserable, and on the other, business came to a nearly complete halt.
Because of the obstruction of means of transportation, the supply of goods decreased and prices started rising. Countries that relied on online sources survived to some extent, but in those countries where the economy was already in a state of disarray, the situation worsened.
Pakistan is one of those countries. The change of government in 2018 and the arrival of Covid exactly a year and a half later put Pakistan’s economy in jeopardy. The government and the public are still struggling to get out of it. This story started with a gradual increase in motor-fuel prices and continues with a rise in food and other prices.
Pakistan’s political and elite class has escaped the scourge of inflation, but on the other side, the country’s poor have not escaped. In Pakistan, when an ordinary laborer works all day, he is paid a maximum of 1,000 or 1,200 rupees (US$5.50-$6.50) at the end of the day. Going home in the evening, his parents, as well as his own family, are waiting for the arrival of some good food.
But you may think that in a country where just cooking oil is 400 rupees per liter, what should a poor laborer take home having just a thousand rupees in hand?
As much as the pandemic is to blame for this catastrophe in the country’s economy, the current government is also involved.
Before coming to power, the current prime minister, Imran Khan, promised to provide 10 million jobs and to build 5 million houses, and simultaneously promised several times that he would kill himself before taking a loan from the International Monetary Fund. Khan has not yet fulfilled the first two promises and has violated the third one not once but many times.
To date, the country has a debt of around US$283 billion according to the Economic Times. And that is why the prices of everything from fuel to groceries are constantly rising across the country.
And it is the poor and working class of the country who have been most affected by this storm of inflation.
In the 2018 election campaign, when Imran Khan was making promises about the New Pakistan, most of the poor people of the country thought he was the Messiah who would provide them with everything (which no leader had been able to do for the past 70 years). Who knew what was to come? They just thought that what Khan was promising would happen.
Not only Khan but other party leaders are also involved in these fake promises. For example, after coming to power, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Faisal Wawda in April 2019 was heard saying on TV that so many jobs were coming that the number of job-seekers would fall. And it would all happen in just four weeks, not years. Doing business would be so easy that even the peddler would say, “Take tax from me.”
But the economic situation of the country after PTI came to power is deplorable. Of course those who enjoy high wages, or who do business abroad, don’t have to worry about inflation. The apocalypse is only for the poor and the laborer.
The poor class of the country that was once praying for Imran Khan to become prime minister is now waiting for the day when this hour will pass and they too will be able to see good days. Four years have passed in this “hour” but the prices of commodities and inflation have not stopped rising.
There is no doubt that Khan’s government is not the only one responsible for this deluge of inflation, as the pandemic has a special role in this. But if the inflation was not going to end, at least it should have been brought down.
Because of the failed economic policies of the government, it was not possible and is not going to be (easily). Debt reduction and strong economic policy can play a part in this, but because of the billions of dollars in debt, this does not seem possible at the moment.
True, other than with the economy, the government has done much better than its predecessors. This includes launching a scholarship program for undergraduate students, providing monthly and half-year financial aid to poor families, access to technical education for young people where they can use Amazon, and learning to do freelancing.
Provision of the Sehat Sahulat Card to every household under which health insurance up to 1 million Pakistani rupees per family per annum will be provided to the entire population.
But in the end, it is the same thing, where did so many millions of rupees come from to launch scholarships and other programs? Wouldn’t it be better to provide basic needs, leaving everything as it was so the nation could be saved from this scourge of inflation?
Follow Syed Attaullah Shah on Twitter @SyedAttaullah96