As a nation, we Pakistanis are known for our excessive consumptive nature. This argument is substantiated by the World Bank’s statistics on Pakistan’s gross domestic savings (GDS). For the year 2020, Pakistan’s GDS was a mere 8.4%. In simple words, a GDS of 8.4% means that out of Rs100 earned by all the households collectively, we consume Rs91.6 and are only left with Rs8.4 as savings. If this figure is compared with the GDS of other regional economies — India’s GDS being 28.3%, Iran’s 38.7%, Bangladesh’s 25.1%, Indonesia’s 31.7%, and Malaysia’s 26.1% — Pakistan falls somewhere at the bottom of the list.
This obsession with consumption is evident in all segments of our society. In our recent history, auto-financing by banks has flooded our limited road infrastructure with automobiles. This lease financing had, once, already imbalanced the supply and demand mechanism related to our natural gas. When CNG was introduced as alternative fuel for vehicles back in 2005, citizens were happy to have a cheap alternative to petrol. But gradually CNG consumption rose to such a level that the supply of gas to our stoves became deficient. To solve this, our policymakers decided to allocate gas to CNG stations and households at different times during the day. Resultingly, consumers witnessed long queues outside CNG stations and families felt the brunt in their kitchens. Gas is a natural resource, and cannot be exploited beyond a certain limit. Therefore, we must adjust our demand patterns according to the availability of a natural resource.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2021.