The price hike in essential commodities has been a norm in Pakistan. The food is getting more and more expensive. Prices for rice, sugar, milk, fruits, vegetables and cooking oils, etc. have risen notably in the last seven years, putting pressure on overall consumer prices. Another aspect of the price rise is that for essential services such as health, education, and transport the people are paying too much beyond their capacity. Inflation, related to capitalism and privatization, has caused a complete deterioration in living standards. With a few exceptions, prices of vegetables and fruits have shot up by 250 to 300% during this period.
The situation has worsened owing to the several rounds of price increases effect for petroleum, electricity, and gas products, which has had an alarming impact on the prices of several commodities. Today, the poor spend a greater proportion of their income on food and fuel, and so. Prices have risen, but wages of the ordinary men are even declining. Edible oil prices have been shooting up. Tomato price has gone up to Rs.60-70 and rising sharply even by now. Just as onion price left the poor people crying, it is now the turn of pulses (dal). The price of the poor man’s staple has almost tripled, and there are no visible measures to check its spiraling growth. The price of gram flour (basin) increased from Rs.40 in 2008 to Rs.140 per kg today. The price of sugar has increased from Rs.22 to Rs.62, and the price of cooking oil rose to Rs.995 from 310/5kg after 2008. The price of onion has increased to Rs.70 from 25/kg. Life for the common man is becoming increasingly difficult owing to the overall price rise across the country.
Prices of daily use items have soared sky high; common man cannot afford much for his family in his meager resources he can earn after a hard day’s work. Prices of kitchen items are so high that they are absolutely out of the ordinary man’s reach. Businessmen are looting poor people with impunity, and the government is doing nothing but playing the role of a silent spectator.
The worst affected lot of people is the poor, and lower middle class, especially low-paid salaried working class in the private sector, which has to maintain a reasonable standard of living on a fixed income. Now, due to rise in prices of commodities especially food, it is becoming difficult for them to bear all the expenses comfortably. What to say the education of children and health care expenditures of the family. Today, Rs.100 note is just like Rs.10. The soaring price of food items is a source of worry. Now, they can’t think of savings and outings because they have to maintain their budget in limited income. Most of the people have resorted to reducing the quantity of things that they usually purchased. They have started compromising with the amount of nutritious food they used to buy for their children.
The cost of essential commodities, buying a house or unaffordable cost of construction, the ever-rising cost of education, unbearable house rent, skyrocketing transportation expenses, work and social outings, the cost of essential commodities have gone up during the past about seven years of civilian governments. To make both ends meet and pay the fee of colleges/universities the people have started spending their savings to keep pace with inflation. If the trend continues for a long time, I think the people of Pakistan will have to take loans to run their families.
The price lists, if issued by the local administration, seem a showpiece in the shops. Nowadays, wholesalers and retailers, particularly of fruits and vegetables, are enjoying a free hand to fleece the consumers by hoarding the commodities despite all the claims of the authorities concerned. The price of sugar has already been raised to an unsustainable level. We are now at the mercy of local administration which is paying no heed to this vital issue. There is no check and balance to control the prices; the prices needs to be checked and regulated by the administration and stern action be taken against the profiteers.
Pakistan, once the “bread basket” of Asia, is now dependent on India due to the bogus policies of successive governments. Pakistan has now the largest number of underfed people. For the 120 million people living and working on small farms, life has become extremely precarious. With appropriate government policy, small farmers have enormous potential to increase food production, improving their lifestyle and contributing to greater food security for all Pakistanis. The wheat support price policy of the government give nothing to small farmers as they normally have no or very little amount of grain to sell due to small holdings; the policy has been formulated merely to facilitate big landlords. With the extreme price increase for wheat has, in fact, has pushed the people of Pakistan towards food price crisis. It is important that the government stays away from the temptation of increasing minimum support price in future. The PML (N) government came to power on promises of reining in inflation, but a spike in food and fuel prices pose a challenge. The government should take necessary measures to control ever-rising food prices.