Vegetables too are now a luxury


Of the many problems facing Pakistan at the moment, ranging from political instability to national security and foreign policy concerns, the state of the economy and the corrective measures being undertaken to fix it are what concern the common man the most, for that has the most direct and detrimental effects on them. The PTI government, depreciating the rupee in an abrupt and aggressive fashion within a matter of months by close to 27 percent since it took over, resulted in input costs to skyrocket, leading to record inflation. Households can cut down their expenses, tightening their belts, but when it comes to the basics, staple food items for example, there is not much that can be done. Wholesale vegetable markets have hiked prices of onions and tomatoes up to Rs 90 per Kg and Rs 250 per Kg respectively in Karachi leading to smaller vendors in the city to sell at higher rates. Vegetables, like chicken and other meat, therefore too have become a luxury for the lower income groups. Some of the hike is also seasonal while others can also be attributed to a supply side problem. Nonetheless, a serious food affordability problem has now set in. Additionally, trying to keep the IMF satisfied, tariff hikes continue, with the latest summary sent to OGRA by SNGPL and SSGC seeking a 31 percent rise in gas prices with a combined revenue shortfall of Rs 93.67 billion staring the gas companies in the face. If approved, which it most likely will be perhaps with a slight revision; inflationary pressure will intensify. The government has attempted to provide some relief in the form of placing price controls at markets but that practice can only achieve so much.

Vendors who are genuinely applying fair cost-plus pricing might be unfairly penalized by the government. That is not to say that the government should not crackdown against hoarders looking to make a quick profit. But it needs to do more to provide relief, as most of this is the result of the government’s economic policies that have brought a financial crunch upon the common man. The PM, simply directing his Cabinet to enforce government prices is not enough.