PTI government has failed to control food inflation

 Low income families spending half of their incomes on food

PTI led federal government has failed to control rising inflation in the country in first two years of its tenure. PTI government has entered into third year of its rule with high food inflation that is really hurting the masses badly. The poor masses suffered the most when rising inflation combines with falling incomes.

In the last 28 months of PTI rule, the inflation continued to rise while real incomes fell. The unemployment and poverty are on the rise. The COVID-19 and economic crisis have made the lives of working people more miserable. The rising food prices have made millions in Pakistan food insecure. The poor families find it extremely hard to feed themselves properly.  

Most of low- income families are spending nearly 50% of their meager incomes on food. The rising cost of food has forced the poor households to significantly decrease the quantity of food to send money on education and ever-increasing utility bills.

The government continues to increase the prices of electricity, gas and petrol which in turn increase the cost of production. The prices of seeds, fertilizers, transportation and diesel have increased many times in last 28 months of PTI rule.  

Food price inflation in Pakistan has been in double digits since August 2019. The cost of food has been 10.4-19.5% higher than the previous year in urban areas and 12.6-23.8% in rural areas, figures published by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics show. In November, urban food prices were up 13.0% on November 2019, and 16.1% in rural areas.

Pakistan ranks 88th out of the 107 countries assessed in the Global Hunger Index 2020. According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report for 2020, prevalence of undernourishment in Pakistan is 12.3% and an estimated 26 million people in Pakistan are undernourished or food-insecure.

“Food access in Pakistan is mostly linked to the income of the population. The income losses due to Covid-19 may increase food insecurity,” Mina Dowlatchahi, the FAO representative in Pakistan told the media.

She said recent income and employment losses, combined with inflation, have decreased the purchasing power of households. Inflated food prices will reduce spending, leading to high food insecurity and diet-related diseases.

There has been massive rise in prices of the commodities as sugar price witnessed an increase of approximately 80 percent, flour 70 percent and cooking oil 68 percent in first two years of PTI government.

During first two years of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, price of mill flour skyrocketed to Rs70 which was easily available at Rs40 earlier. Price of pulses jumped from 150 to 240 while price of sugar rose to over Rs100 from Rs56. Red chilies also witnessed a massive increase in price from Rs300 to Rs900 per kg.

Price of one-liter pouch of cooking oil increased from 182 to 250 and even price of boneless beef meat jumped from Rs550 rupees to 700. The prices of mutton have gone up to Rs1300 per Kg. The chicken prices remained high for nearly four months. The price of chicken was reached out of the hands of low-income families and rise up to Rs360 per Kg. The good quality milk is being sold in the range of Rs90 to 120 per liter. The prices of vegetables are also high and creating lot of hardships for poor families.

Masses are fed up with the bad governance of the present government, and firmly believe the government should start taking concrete measures to provide some relief to the people instead of accusing the successive governments of all the ills being faced by the country.

Patience of the common man has exhausted, as lollypops of Ehsaas Programme, youth loans and other public appeasing measures serve a fraction of the population, while the majority continues to face hunger, as the food prices continue to increase with each passing day.

The most depressing reality is that the present government has failed to nab the hoarders, smugglers and profiteers, even though the government’s own reports pointed finger on some of the culprits that are sitting within its ranks.

We saw wheat prices soaring when the harvest (enough to feed the nation till next crop) was available. Today, people are paying almost 60 percent higher price of the commodity than last year. The thuggery of sugar barons is well known to all. They exploit farmers in many ways, including breaking the law by not paying them on time for which they can face jail terms.

It seems the state has lost its grip on the markets. Now, hoarding is a norm. For hoarding sugar and wheat, you need a lot of capital. The hoarders are influential, as well, but in case of vegetables, the cash required is much less. The second tier of hoarders have emerged in vegetables. The farmers part with their produce at very low rates. The hoarders then join hands to control the supply of each vegetable to enhance the rates. It is because of this manipulation that prices of all vegetables have touched historic high.

The government need to think seriously about its neoliberal economic policies.  Without addressing the key issues like unemployment, high inflation, falling incomes and rising poverty faced by the masses, the government will not be able to provide much needed relief to the people. The government needs to bring down the inflation and especially food inflation, unemployment and poverty. The ordinary Pakistanis will judge the performance of PTI government on the basis of these core issues.

                                                                       The Editor

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