There have been numerous mentions in the last three years of the mounting level of inflation in the country in public forums, countless meetings and multiple tweets by Prime Minister Imran Khan and myriad notices have been taken by him on the massive price hike and vows made to curb the menace.
But the net result of all this has been the opposite – a steady spiral in the prices of essential commodities and the cost of living, which has hit everyone barring the well-heeled exceptions. There has been abundant official talk and claims about checking the price hike and less practical measures and actions.
It has been officially announced numerous times that the prime minister had taken notice of the back-breaking inflation. But every time, the situation remained uncontrollable. A peep into the past when rising inflation started to hit the people after 2018 shows that Imran Khan publicly talked about it at least eleven times, held lots of meetings, at least once every week according to him, and tweeted nine times about the issue.
All the time, he attempted to depict a feel-good factor, assuring the people that hard days would be over soon. At times, he gave just two months to tide over the predicament. However, whatever he said and whatever measures he recommended and were implemented steadily or patchily, miserably failed to produce any positive outcome. The people continued to groan under the burden of a rise in prices. At the same time, the foreign and domestic debt kept skyrocketing, hurting Pakistan.
Imran Khan’s focus on growing inflation and pledges to rein it in began just a few months after he assumed office in 2018, meaning that the phenomenon started striking Pakistan in the very early stages of his innings. Every time, he conceded that he realized that the inflation was very high, and people were suffering, and promised better days very soon. While speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony of a modern hospital in Rawalpindi on May 10, 2019, he mentioned the price hike. On 24th of the same month, he addressed the business community in Islamabad and referred to the escalating inflation.
Then on January 27, 2020, he spoke at the Kamyab Jawan Programme function in Karachi and alluded to the price spiral. In his address to the nation on March 17, 2020, he did the same. In his live calls with the public in February and April 2021, the prime minister mentioned the rise in prices of essential commodities. In his address to the dinner for the parliamentarians on June 28, 2021, on the occasion of the federal budget’s passage in the National Assembly, he also alluded to the growing inflation.
Again, during his live calls with people on August 1, 2021, he referred to the rise in prices while answering a question from a caller. While inaugurating the Matiari to Lahore transmission line on September 20, 2021, he mentioned the price spiral. He did the same on October 9, 2021, while speaking at a function for the Kamyab Pakistan Programme in Islamabad.
Listening to the video clips of what he stated on these occasions reflects his concern and acknowledgement of the soaring inflation and the various reasons he alluded to for causing the worrying scenario.
At one point in 2019, the prime minister said he realized that there was a significant price hike and a considerable raise in electricity and gas tariffs. The power producing sector is under debt, which was because of what was done to it in the past and the way Pakistan was looted, he said, and added that this had to result in tough times. When a household is hit by such a tough situation, it has to do two things to overcome it: reduce its expenses and augment its income.
On another occasion, Imran Khan said he saw some ministers distraught about the level of inflation. The inflation, he said, is due to the mafias which would be caught by the government one by one, and none would be spared.
The prime minister also said that a coordination committee has been formed which will ensure there is no price hike and no hoarding of sugar and other essential commodities that cause inflation. The government, he said, fears that such attempts will be made again.
At yet another point, Imran Khan cited the reason behind the price hike and said when the rupee depreciates against the dollar, everything imported becomes dear. As Pakistan imports 30pc of them, prices of imported edible oil and pulses go up. In future, the government will produce hydel electricity or convert coal into gas or wind. The pressure on the rupee will decrease by lowering dependence on imported fuel. When the oil price is raised, electricity becomes dear as half of the power produced by Pakistan is produced by oil and the power contracts signed in the past which had been inked to the dollar.
Imran Khan also said in February this year that inflation was very painful for him. “I have a realization about it and that is why I have meetings every week and analyse why the prices of different commodities have shot up. I know people are facing a tough time. But it is necessary to understand why there is a price hike. Our effort is to boost exports and I am happy to note that exports registered a record rise last month.”
The premier said this year the government was introducing a revolutionary agriculture policy, which will change the entire sector. “I will show how the price hike will be controlled.”
In September this year, Imran Khan said inflation has been caused by Covid-19 as the supply chain has been disturbed worldwide and the prices of commodities have leaped upward.
The oil prices, he said, have increased internationally by 100pc over the past few months while the government hiked them by 22pc only. Similarly, the wheat prices have escalated by 37pc globally while the government raised them by just 12pc.
The prime minister said that inflation would be defeated by giving targeted subsidies to the poor segment of society. When the prices of commodities at the global level come down, they will become lower in Pakistan as well.