Amidst the spiraling inflation, the government sprang into action to contain the rising prices approving a relief package worth ten billion rupees to provide some immediate relief. The economic challenges have increased burden on the country and the common man is been squeezed.
The federal cabinet approved a subsidy of Rs2 billion per month for a period of five months to the Utility Stores Corporation for the provision of edible items and groceries at affordable rates. The government is concerned over the rising prices realising a fallout could have adverse economic and political costs. The export of sugar has been banned and a regulatory duty imposed after a mismanaged fiasco last month, while a report is being sought against those responsible for the wheat flour crisis.
The PTI government has targeted the lower segments of society for the relief package. This is rather insufficient and will not last for long as the number of those affected is huge and only a fraction will benefit. The relief package worth Rs10 billion is insignificant for a nation where still one-third of the population lives below the poverty line. The compassion for the common man is appreciated but the government should not resort to tokenistic and short-term measures.
The inflation rate has reached a nine-year high and the prices of essential items continue to rise making even basic commodities such as flour, sugar, and pulses beyond the reach of the common man. The nation is undergoing tough economic challenges and escalating debts but the efforts to reduce the public’s suffering are certainly inadequate and only temporary.
Since economic initiatives are not delivering the desired results, the government should focus on social issues. The financial inclusion Ehsaas Program is only benefiting 4.3 million women and should be expanded, while the number of shelter homes and langar provision schemes should be increased. Most importantly, the government should take action against those responsible for the price hikes.
The rising inflation, poverty and unemployment rates have given the opposition any opportunity to criticise the PTI government. Prime Minister Imran Khan may have evaded any corruption allegations or scandals for now, but the economic situation may lead to his own doing. The prime minister’s economic team has an even great responsibility to ensure this does not spill over into a political crisis.