Skyrocketing Inflation Forcing People To Make Tough Choices

Skyrocketing Inflation Forcing People To Make Tough Choices
During this worsening economic crisis, Pakistanis are struggling to put food on the table. Where our neighbor India has only recently launched 36 satellites for OneWeb's broadband constellation, we lost 11 lives on the last day of March due to a stampede at a Ramzan food distribution location. Hundreds of people gather at food distribution centers where they get free flour from the government, which has demonstrated an unwillingness to fully address the underlying structural issues plaguing the economy. The government launched the flour distribution initiative last week to help low-income people survive what is now the worst economic crisis that Pakistan has seen since 1965. A lot of families are forced to sleep on an empty stomach, as Pakistan’s consumer price index (CPI) jumped 31.5% in February, with March inflation topping out at a whopping 35.37%.

There are reports of people who are unable to afford traveling fares, and are sleeping on roads because the hike in fuel prices has caused an increase in transportation fares and the minimum wage of 25 thousand rupees can not sustain another liability. This has not only caused extreme poverty, but has become a major cause of crime. People, especially those unemployed, are left with no option but to indulge in criminal activities.

Ali Nawaz used to work at a private company and is now working as an Uber motorcycle rider. During the economic crisis, his company started to cut off employees and he lost his job. After trying hard, he failed to secure another job, and was left with no option other than his bike to earn a sustenance. He now takes rides from 6am in the morning to 9pm at night. He tried to hold back his tears, saying that he now begs students outside universities to drop them home at low fares.

Zubair Ahmad, an MBA graduate from a local university, despite being a brilliant student, is now a rickshaw driver. He worked as an intern for 2 years and every company rejected him saying they are unable to manage the pre-existing employees they have. Zubair’s mother suffers from diabetes and he is the only earning hand in the household. Skyrocketing inflation has caused an increase in the prices of diabetes medicine and he said that his mother is forced to take medicine on alternative days that she was supposed to be taking daily.

The inflation in Pakistan is causing devastating results, even as the country has not fully recovered from the catastrophic flood that hit last year.

Conditions in hospitals are becoming unbearable. Hospital management refuses to check patients without a fee and reports are streaming in that people are dying on hospital floors or in the arms of their loved ones just because they did not have enough money to pay for doctors' fees. There is also a lot of news on social media that hospitals are also refusing to return dead bodies to their families just because they have not paid the treatment fee. It seems cruel and inhumane that a person who earns 10 to 20 thousand rupees a month ought to be able to afford a 50 thousand emergency treatment for his family member.

What has been neglected so often by the mainstream media is that many people have lost their lives to this economic crisis, with many having killed themselves just because they have no means to survive. The current government's primary focus is to indulge in the politics of revenge, while the opposition party is busy with their protests. If such a situation continues, people will either be dying or forced to steal. The current government of Pakistan does not seem to have a strategy or a plan to get the country out of this situation. They are all hoping that the IMF will provide another round of funding, but that loan will also be a burden on ordinary citizens, as the government will inevitably increase indirect and regressive taxes on the IMF commands.

There is no quick solution to save the country’s sinking economy. Due to instability in Pakistan's politics and economy, many people who would have been assets to Pakistan are leaving the country, businessmen and industrialists are shifting their business to other countries, and many international companies are shutting down their bases of operations in Pakistan. The situation of business and industries in Pakistan is just like when Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto nationalized industries and Pakistan was hit with an economic crisis. The economic destabilization has diminished the trust of foreign investors in Pakistan. The only profit-making sector in Pakistan is now real estate, which itself is one of the big reasons for Pakistan's economic downfall. People now invest in unproductive land, rather than setting up factories that help produce local goods. Those with capital are relying on banks, which have increased the interest rate to up to 20%.

Pakistan is on the verge of default, and no government can fix this pathetic state of affairs until there are major structural reforms done in Pakistan.