Inflation on the rise in Pakistan in the fasting month of Ramadan.
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videonewsasia.com PAKISTAN:  RAMADAN-HARDSHIP

PAKISTAN: RAMADAN-HARDSHIP

Local News Karachi , KARACHI, PAKISTAN

News ID : 94968 Video Version : 1 Script Version : 1

File Size : 254.30 KB duration10:42

Headline

Inflation on the rise in Pakistan in the fasting month of Ramadan.

Intro

Price rise in everyday commodities adds to misery of Pakistanis in the holy month of Ramadan.

Story

STORY: Mohammad Zaheer wipes his shabby rickshaw under the blazing Karachi sun, yawning as he waits for any passengers to come around.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">“I have been driving the rickshaw since 2013. At that time it was possible to make a decent living. But now inflation has gone so high that it has become impossible to make both ends meet. Passengers are reluctant to pay the fare that we ask for, although three quarters of what we earn goes into petrol. We wait around for hours. Every time a new passenger comes along, the bargaining starts all over again.  He doesn’t have enough money to pay the fare I demand; and I have no other option except to let him get in (at the discounted fare). So I take him up, but all along the way, I am worrying whether I will be able to save anything at all,” said the 68-year-old Karachi rickshaw driver.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Inflation has skyrocketed in Pakistan where the $350 billion economy has long been under extreme stress with a yawning balance of payment crisis that would need deep-rooted structural reforms.Things have become worse since the advent of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, on March 8.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">The escalating prices of essential goods, especially during Ramadan, have placed a heavy burden on Pakistanis,  particularly those from lower-income backgrounds.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Steps taken by the government , like a relief package amounting to 12 billion rupees for deserving individuals during Ramadan, are proving inadequate. 

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">“A few months back, I used to buy this onion for Rs 50 (US $  )  per kg. Today, in Ramadan,  its for Rs 200 (US $   ) per kg.Tell me, how can a poor man like me buy this? In other countries, food stuff comes down to half price (during Ramadan), here is Pakistan the prices more than double. If they lower the prices, poor people like me can also make some tasty snacks for iftar. At Rs 200, that is impossible. Where should we go? They make things so costly during the month of Ramadan,” Zaheer grumbled.       

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">According to a  report by the Express Tribune, the country has recorded a two to three-fold inflation in the prices of essential kitchen items, including vegetables, sugar, edible oil, ghee, meat, eggs, and pulses since Ramadan began on March 8.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Zaheer said Ramadan, which is a month in which prices of essential items are lowered in other Muslim countries, in Pakistan becomes a “month of hardship” with shopkeepers raising their prices beyond the reach of most people.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">“If we think of 5 years back, we could easily have an “iftar” (breaking of fast) party; we would invite 3 or 4 guests . Now , forget about guests, its difficult to manage our own family expenses,” he said ruefully.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Cash-strapped Pakistan has faced significant inflation challenges in recent years, hitting a peak of 38% last May, partly influenced by tax measures that were set to meet requirements for a bailout program from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Although the inflation rate has since eased, with the consumer price index rising 23.1% year-on-year in February, the lowest increase since June 2022, it remains difficult for many Pakistanis to make a living and pay for essential items, especially food.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Prices for food have skyrocketed since the advent of Ramadan, the holy Islamic month of fasting.Residents of Sarjani town in the outskirts of Pakistan's teeming port city Karachi  where Zaheer lives, say it used  to be a  reasonably well-to-do, middle class colony , but in recent times inflation has pushed many of them across the poverty line.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Riaz Ahmed, a street food vendor selling 'Pakora', a popular snack for fast breaking at sunset known as Iftar, reiterated the economic strife people are facing this Ramadan."Last Ramadan was much better; this Ramadan there is no business. I have even lowered the prices... that is how poor people have become," said Ahmed.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">The Saylani Welfare International Trust, a charity organisation providing support for low-income communities in Pakistan, has also seen a surge in their operation, with 20,000 families taking dry food rations in Karachi alone, according to Arif Lakhani, one of the organisation's trustees.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Lakhani said that for the month of Ramadan, 112,000 ration packs for home delivery have been prepared, and 11 donation centres have been set up in close proximity to deprived areas, even offering those in desperate need an opportunity to get registered for the entire year.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">"These people (Saylani Trust) are helping us in a time when even our own relatives are not willing to give us a plate of rice," said one Saylani beneficiary Aneela Mohammad, as Karachi residents were queueing up at a donation centre to receive ration packs, sacks of flour and cash handouts.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Earlier this week,  the IMF agreed a provisional or staff-level agreement with Islamabad which, if approved by its board, would disburse the last tranche of $1.1 billion under an existing $3 billion standby arrangement.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">Ahead of the stand-by arrangement, Pakistan had to meet IMF conditions including revising its budget, and raising interest rates, as well as generating revenue through more taxes and hiking electricity and gas prices.

span lang="EN-US" style="border: 0px; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 12pt; line-height: 24px; font-family: inherit; font-optical-sizing: inherit; font-kerning: inherit; font-feature-settings: inherit; font-variation-settings: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: inherit;">It resulted in inflation rising as high as 38% last summer, a historic depreciation in the local currency and the economy contracting.However, growth is expected to be modest this year and inflation remains well above target, as Pakistan needs more policy reforms to address its "economic vulnerabilities," a statement from IMF said.

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