Faded expectations

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PEOPLE of Pakistan as elsewhere in the world greeted the New Year with festivity and fireworks but their celebrations were dampened by a fresh wave of price-hike on the eve of the New Year. In a shocking development, the Government not only substantially revised upward the prices of petroleum products but rates of LPG have also been hiked by Rs 278/- per 11.8 kg cylinder and NEPRA notified hefty Rs 4.87 a unit increase in tariff for K-Electric.
The additional pressure on inflation-ridden masses comes in the backdrop of repeated claims by the top leadership that 2020 would bring relief for the people. We have been hearing from relevant ministers and authorities concerned that the difficult economic and fiscal phase was over, the economy has stabilized and that trickledown effect of the consolidation would be visible during the New Year. However, instead of providing relief to the people, the Government opted to drop petrol, gas and electric bombs on them and it is understood that significant increase in prices of POL products, gas and electricity would dash hopes of inflation coming down and instead it would increase further. Ironically, the Government has been eyeing at bringing the inflation rate down to 5% during the current year but is taking measures that would produce the opposite result. And this is not the all as there are active plans to increase gas tariff between two to three hundred per cent for different categories of consumers and revise the electricity tariff further upward in addition to unending increases in the name of fuel adjustment charges that now constitute much more than the original consumption bill. There are also reports that the Government might opt for a mini budget in February or March this year to bridge the gap in realization of budgetary targets agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). All this mean that expectations of the people about a positive change in their daily life are unlikely to materialize except the lollipop of subsidized food items through the network of Utility Stores Corporation. It is also apprehended that besides pushing more people down the poverty line, such measures would also dash hopes about meaningful progress towards the ease of doing business and resultantly there can be continued economic recession. One fails to understand how the Government intends to realize the latest commitment it made during Federal Cabinet meeting on the last day of 2019 that ‘progress, prosperity and relief’ would be its priorities during the New Year.