Uncontrolled inflation has become the single most worrisome issue for Pakistanis, as two-thirds of respondents in a new poll have described the current economic situation as bad with increasing scepticism about any improvement in their conditions.
Ipsos - a global market research and consulting firm - conducted the survey a week before Prime Minister Imran Khan sacked his second finance minister in as many years for not controlling inflation.
Survey findings revealed that consumers had very low confidence and were reluctant to make investment decisions. They were also not very optimistic about the future of economy and jobs. The fear of losing jobs has remained far behind, as increasing inflation tops the list of economy-related problems.
For 32% of respondents, inflation was the most worrisome issue, followed by unemployment (20%) and Covid-19 (16%), showed the poll results. The survey findings also put a question mark over the priorities of PM Khan, who talked about eradicating corruption more than lessening economic woes of the people.
The findings showed that only 3% of respondents said that corruption, bribery, adulteration and nepotism were an issue for them.
About one-tenth of respondents mentioned increasing poverty as the most worrisome issue, according to Ipsos. People were questioned about their confidence in the economy, their opinion about the current situation compared to a year earlier, investment decisions, job prospects and the most worrying issues for them. The survey was conducted between March 18 and 24.
About 38% of respondents from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said that the increase in inflation was the major concern for them - a ratio that was 31% in Sindh and Punjab and 30% in Balochistan. Unemployment was the second most worrisome issue for the people in four provinces, followed by Covid-19, which was the third biggest worry in three provinces, except for Balochstian, where it was on the fourth number among top five most worrying issues.
Corruption was at the bottom of the top five concerns in three provinces while for people living in Punjab it was not an issue that could deserve their attention, according to Ipsos. Only 7% of respondents said the current economic situation was very good and for another 29% it was somewhat good.
About two-thirds of the respondents - 64% to be precise - said the economy was in bad shape. To a question on whether the current state of economy in their local areas was strong, only one out of 10 people said that it was strong. For about three out of every 10 people it was weak and for the remaining respondents, it was neither weak nor strong. However, the pessimism about the future economic outlook is growing. Some 41% of respondents did not see any improvement, rather they said that the economy would weaken further.
Pakistan’s economic conditions have remained fragile for the past many years and things have deteriorated further in the last two and a half years, except for improvement in the current account deficit that too was achieved by slowing the economic growth. Foreign remittances were another area where the government could claim a degree of success.
Starting from exports to foreign direct investment, revenue collection, fiscal deficit and public debt, all the indicators have deteriorated further during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. PM Khan has replaced two finance ministers and last week gave the finance portfolio to Hammad Azhar.
The newly appointed finance minister has stated that controlling inflation is the top most priority of the government and emphasised the need for coordinated and consolidated efforts by all concerned to provide essential items to the general public at fair prices.
However, uncertainty remains as news is being fed to the media about bringing in Shaukat Tarin as the new finance minister.
The prime minister has also kicked out his critics from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC). People representing the interest of the elite have secured a place at the top table, being chaired by the premier himself.
About eight out of every 10 people said that they were less confident about their job security while 43% said that they lost job in the past six months due to economic conditions.
Results of Ipsos research are based on primary data collected from the nationally representative sample of 1,000 people.
The survey showed that people were not willing to make personal investment decisions over the next six months due to an overall low trust in the economy. On the Investment Index, the score was 25.7 compared with India where it was nearly 60.
Some 82% of respondents said that they were less confident about making a major purchase.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2021.