The inflation rate in the country has been increasing at an all-time high level with the month of October recording a 9.2 percent rate. If not in the past 70 years of the country’s existence, at least in the past decade such a surge in inflation rate had never been witnessed. And since the ruling PTI is obsessed with clocking in a record with claims of the ‘first time in country’s history’, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday announced the ‘biggest ever’ subsidy package for what he called would mitigate the hardships of the inflation-hit public. While addressing the nation, the premier announced “the biggest welfare programme in Pakistan’s history” of Rs120 billion. Under this subsidy package, families hailing from the lower income strata of the country will be able to purchase ghee, wheat flour and pulses at 30 per cent lower than the actual cost. However, the irony is that the premier also in the same address mentioned that the petrol prices are likely to rise along with the inflation, owing to the hike in commodity prices in the international market.
Does PM Khan realise that the same families he wants to provide relief to would face financial constraints owing to an increase in petrol prices? They are the ones dependent on public transport and are paying higher fare prices to reach from point A to point B for work. Moreover, how much relief would a 30 percent cut on prices of three essential products help when the cost of other food and non-food items, such as, electricity, have been increased?
The premier once again also blamed the previous governments for the problems the public faces today and rode the horse of anti-corruption to highlight the ‘ills of the elite’. “I request the two big families to bring half of the money they looted and took outside [to Pakistan]. Even if they bring half [the money], I promise you and the nation that I will slash the prices of all food items by half,” said the PM. If a sitting government, even after completing three years in power, still blames its predecessors for the economic woes of a country, one can realise where its priority lies. Clearly not with setting the economy right. Perhaps the premier must be reminded that Pakistan is one of the 50 countries in the world facing an imminent debt crisis. And the IMF revival would only increase it further. It is then safe to say that Pakistan is not in a position to afford ‘biggest ever anything’.