For the first time since records began, the prices of all four major petroleum products are now above 100 rupees per liter. In a move that will have a huge impact on people across the country, the government has increased gasoline prices by 10.49 rupees per liter and the price of high-speed diesel by over 12.44 rupees per liter, in line with Ogra’s recommendations. This means that a liter of gasoline now costs 137.79 rupees. We ask a very simple question. How should people be led? Even those in the salary bracket will struggle to make ends meet in the face of these challenges. This is especially true as the gas price is also expected to rise and the price of electricity is to be raised by 1.39 rupees per unit for the majority of consumers under an agreement with the IMF.
Already now, people across the country are struggling to manage. The gasoline explosion means an even more difficult time for them. This goes hand in hand with the increase in electricity prices according to the dictates of the IMF, while at the same time tax subsidies and thus the burden on buyers are to be reduced in the event of food price inflation of now over 11 percent. Headline inflation is over 9 percent. Wages just don’t keep up with such triggers. And the reports that there will be a serious gas shortage in the winter months, also because LNG and RLNG are not bought on site in time, only add to the impression that life is becoming impossible. We already have a situation where people struggle to just deal with it. Many have given up more and more things that were considered essential. How they will cope with a further rise in prices is inconceivable. In a country where a third of the population lives below the poverty line, malnutrition, including child starvation, is widespread, and only a minority receive the nutrients they need, it is criminal to impose such price increases on people at the dictates of the IMF correspond. It is true that Pakistan’s financial managers find it difficult to find a way out of the trap in which they have set themselves. Withdrawal from the IMF program could also pose difficulties. Pakistan has a huge debt service bill and needs loans to manage its debts as well as other costs. At the same time, the current account deficit is rising and the rupee is falling against the dollar.
But these are not the concerns of what we call the “normal” people of Pakistan. They are not the concerns of the people Imran Khan promised to serve during his campaign for prime minister and in his early years in office. In fact, he had twice promised not to raise electricity prices any further and then did just that. The question is who to rely on when it is the government itself that is literally driving it to a point where survival becomes impossible.