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Price rise hurts common Pakistani but Imran Khan looks the other way

At a time when Pakistan is battling serious economic challenges with sagging growth rate and fewer jobs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the common man has been hit by unabated price rise. Earlier this month, the country's television news channel, Geo News quoted market research company Ipos saying that about 49 per cent of the Pakistanis living in the country believe that the price rise was due to the mismanagement of the Imran Khan led government.

Pakistan has been witnessing a steady increase in its inflationary trends since last year. The inflation rate – as measured by the consumer price index– was 6.8 per cent in 2018-19 but has been rising since then. In the financial year 2019-20 the inflation rate hit 10.7 per cent, the highest in the world.

“Despite weak activity, consumer price inflation rose from an average of 6.8 percent in FY19 to an average of 10.7 percent in FY20, due to surging food inflation, hikes in administered energy prices, and a weaker rupee, which depreciated 13.8 percent against the U.S. dollar in FY20,” a World Bank in its report said.

In January, this year– even before the coronavirus pandemic hit the world–Pakistan's inflation rate rose to a whopping 14.6 per cent. After remaining at double digit levels till March, the overall inflation rate fell to 8.5 per cent in April.

In September, the inflation rate breached the 9 per cent mark while in October it eased a little to touch 8.91 per cent. “Corruption is another big problem that plagues the country, so the retail prices are often significantly higher than the officially quoted prices, making life even more difficult for the local people and more so for the poorer section,” an analyst told Indianarrative.com on condition of anonymity.

<em>The Dawn</em> newspaper last month flashed a report highlighting that despite the arrival of imported vegetables prices of tomatoes and onions hit new peaks of Rs 200 and Rs 80 per kg. Not just that several “greedy retailers” were charging even higher prices for imported food items.

<strong>Pakistan’s inflation rate problem</strong>:

The country has been reeling under inflationary pressures since 2008. In 2010, inflation rate hit 12.94 per cent. Though this was a significant drop from 20.29 per cent in 2008, the hydra-headed problem of price rise has regularly haunted the Pakistan government.

Experts said that the focus of the government must be in fighting "real issues" which includes economic growth.

"The problem of the country is that the priorities have always been misplaced. At a time when the world is trying to grapple with the Covid 19 menace, Pakistan is looking at issues other than economy, focusing on religion and Kashmir. The best way to handle the economy is to focus on the economy," a foreign affairs analyst who refused to be identified said.