Apportioning blame for price hike | By Muhammad Usman


Apportioning blame for price hike

IN the wake of unstoppable snowballing prices of daily commodities, opposition parties in the fold of PDM, has found a potent whip to beat the government in the name of populism and in its grab, serve their vested interests in more ways than one.

On strength of their artful sophistry along with a vast variety of other factors in their favour, underlying reasons for incessant price hikes, have become obscured from public eyes.

For the majority of reasons, they were the cause and the present government and people are suffering its ensuing grievous effects.

The immediate cause of instant dearness is an unprecedented rise in commodity prices globally as a result of Covid lockdowns.

It is a kind of force majeure beyond one’s control, however, in case of Pakistan, the effect being felt is more pinching because here, other attributing reasons remain chronic and unmitigated.

A discourse of these makes a forbidding study. The arm twisting of the IMF, is one of the foremost reasons which essentially has political orientation rather than an economic slant for countries, pushed into debt trap by them deliberately.

In backdrop of “Absolutely Not” reply to US, its manifestation is now pronounced as witnessed during recent discussion by Pakistan with IMF for review of the $6 Billon extended facility.

It is needless to mention that international world financial institutions including IMF are veritable arms of US to advance its interests worldwide.

Despite soaring oil prices internationally and its awesome impacts on its people, already languishing in inescapable price hike of own creation, Pakistan had to increase prices of all petroleum products by up to Rs 8.4 per litre in a single stroke at night with immediate effect to save its tottering talks with IMF for transfusion of its life saving tranche.

It could serve no economic imperative of ours but worsen the abject plight of our impoverished people further.

It is the debt trap which has brought us to this impasse and Pakistan was lured into this during governments of PPP and PML (N) in succession from 2008 to 2018.

They had money lent maliciously to squander on projects of instant self-glorification along with pocketing massive amounts of money to the detriment of national sovereignty.

When a debt exceeds a country’s repayment capacity, its sovereignty stands compromised. Now it is time for Pakistan to pay back and it is unable to repay until it borrows more from them which in turn, tightens millstone of debt around its neck further.

Until we break their shackles, we have to suffer negative fallout of its diktats and high cost of living is one of their key objectives and modus operandi is to retard economic growth and development by superficial economic recipes.

The blame of falling into debt trap and squandering borrowed money squarely lies upon political parties which remained in power during the said period.

Apart from this, notwithstanding their misleading claims, due to their habitual indifference for good of the people, corrupt chemistry and ineptitude, these parties also played havoc with economic and social sectors of the country.

Resultantly, people have to spend considerably on education, healthcare and transport etc out of their scarce income and they find it difficult to make both ends meet when there is a sudden and steep price hike due to some inevitable reasons or pending impact of their past economic blunders.

One of the apt examples is keeping the rupee strong against the Dollar artificially. It was unsustainable indefinitely. One day, it had to go bust and when it did, there was a sharp increase in prices of commodities.

Undeniably, the impact of price hike and economic recession is greater for countries whose economy is weak and so as on people whose income is incompatible with cost of living. Now these parties are busy trying to undercut economy with a different motivation.

It is to ditch Imran Khan and evade the bullet of accountability for their corruption and other misdeeds. Asif Zaradri said publicly that accountability and economy cannot coexist.

Every now and then, they activate their connections in economic circles, bureaucracy and even judiciary to create a crisis of supply and demand to discredit Imran Khan or blackmail him and gain political mileage.

The 18th Constitutional Amendment is fragrantly used to perpetuate their ugly pursuits. Latest example is delaying the crushing season by Sindh to create a sugar crisis in the country.

Net result is price hike and sufferers are the people, particularly, people with fixed or less income.

Another notable reason for the novel price hike is the mentality of the people at large. It is that we, as a nation, have increasingly grown greedy and grasping.

There is scant regard for adherence to rules and regulations. Excessive profiteering to the extent of fleecing is now probably part of our DNA.

For this, we can do hoarding, smuggling, cartelization and tricks of any kind. There is no concept of genuine profit. Only guideline is — milk as much as possible rather the most apt word is suck even dry.

Admittedly, the government is responsible to break nexus of mafias, arrest ill tendencies and ensure price control.

The present government is failing on this account because of united opposition of mafias which also have effective support within all organs of the State.

Inadequacy of government is also a contributing reason, however, without meaning to prejudice one’s opinion, it is not the conclusive reason.

Major responsibility lies elsewhere because performance of this government cannot be judged with same metric kept for a government assuming power under normal circumstances. When it assumed charge, the country was in a sinkhole economically, morally and socially.

We could only rid ourselves from the clutches of the IMF and alleviate economic sufferings of the people if we earn more rather aplenty.

Increasing exports, enhancing remittances and bumper crops are good omens and need to be applauded, encouraged further and most importantly, moral rearmament of people.

— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.

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