The Punjab government has announced a Rs2,000 increase in the minimum wage of workers. Labourers in the province will now be owed at least Rs20,000 per month, should their employers not employ underhanded tactics. Announcing the ‘relief’, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar described welfare of labourers and workers as his government’s top priority. He also said that over the past three years, the PTI government has made a Rs5,000 increase in the minimum wage, in comparison with the Rs3,000 raise made by the PML-N government during their five years in power.
That is all well and good. Raising minimum wage is something our workers sorely deserve and has been an aspect of PTI’s overarching populist promise. But one cannot help but notice what CM Buzdar — or any other ruling party figure for that matter — would cautiously avoid bringing up. On its own, a raise in minimum wage is an absolutely welcome step. Even under the current circumstances, it is something the country direly needs. But if Buzdar and the PTI want to compare their performance with that of their predecessors, then perhaps one should also see the broader picture.
As things stand, inflation in the country stands in double digits and growth has slowed down to a crawling 1%. For all their promise of an economic revival and their claims of inheriting an economy in a shambles, the fact is that the economy has heavily regressed under the present government’s watch. Couple all of that with the dramatic rise in unemployment, and one wonders how big of a difference just a Rs2,000 increase in minimum wage make. Especially with the value the rupee currently has.
Some of the challenges the PTI government has faced can be pinned on forces outside of its control. The novel coronavirus pandemic has wrecked economies the world over. But even counting that out, it is no secret how badly the government botched other decisions, economic or otherwise. In the days to come, there will be another sword hanging over our country because of more shortsightedness. These are the wonders of context.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2021.
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