Feeling the pinch of the price hike

Price surge coupled with inflation has made the lives of people a living hell


Fahad Zulfikar March 06, 2016

Consumers in Pakistan, especially Karachi, are being stretched by a surge in food prices. Despite the government’s move to slash prices of petroleum products, the prices of commodities continue to rise, giving an opportunity to traders and wholesalers to earn higher profits. Price hikes have put many staple foods out of the reach of the poor. People are being smothered by surging food prices that are dragging more people into poverty, fueling political tensions and forcing some to give up eating meat, fruit and even vegetables.

The pinch has been felt most by people from middle, lower middle and poor classes. Scraping to afford the next meal has become a grim daily reality for most families. However, the prices of food items hardly fell from their peaks adding to the misery of the masses. As a result, living standards have suffered as a larger percentage of household budgets are spent on grocery store bills, leaving less for discretionary spending. Price spikes have also limited the ability of poor households to meet important non-food expenses, such as education and health care. This may deplete their chances of success in life.

Price surge coupled with inflation has made the lives of people a living hell. These always penalised the poor more than the rich because the poor are less able to protect themselves against the consequences, and less able to hedge against the risks that inflation poses. This trend is compelling people to commit suicide in sheer frustration. From time to time, people have protested against price hikes, but those in power failed to address the issue and pay heed to their hue and cry.

The recent crisis in food prices has once again underscored the urgent need for government to strengthen measures to ensure that the rise in the price of basic commodities does not trigger an increase in poverty rates.

The government doesn't seem to have an effective policy for managing food prices and controlling inflation. It should take concrete steps on a war-footing basis to rescue the poor over-burdened masses.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2016.

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