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‘Good inflation bad inflation’ is Imran Khan’s new lesson in economics as prices soar

Imran Khan govt's message to Pakistanis is clear – tie a stone to your stomach, eat grass if need be, and thank your stars that you are on the good side of inflation.

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Earlier this March when Saad Alavi came up with the satirical song about the days of our lives, little did Pakistanis know that it would be a prophetic tune. Sabun mehenga ho jaye to aap ne lagana nahi hai, he sang then and here we are six months later, with the price of a 60 gram bath soap gone up by Rs 15. It does seem that along with aap ne ghabrana nahi hai, the nation now also has to follow the aap ne nahana nahi hai tune. And it will not only save you money on soap but also water and geyser gas, 3-in-1 offer. No one saw Prime Minister Imran Khan’s promised tabdeeli coming.

Pakistan, the fourth most expensive country in the world, has an inflation rate of 9 per cent, petrol price hike, historical dollar rise and 22 items including tomatoes, potatoes, ghee becoming more expensive within just a week. As the political parties in opposition launched their countrywide protests against the government over inflation, rising poverty and unemployment, the focus of the prime minister remained to convey the message: Pakistan’s inflation is less than other countries. If this doesn’t console your wallets, don’t know what will. After good Taliban bad Taliban comes good inflation bad inflation. There is now ‘good inflation’, which you’ll find in Pakistan if you’re in the PTI government, and ‘bad inflation’, which is in the rest of the world.

There will be ministers in the government who will tell people how the inflation of 2021 is a by-product of previous rulers, despite being part of the cabinets of those previous rulers as well. Then there are those who’ll convince you that even if petrol is at Rs 200 per litre, people will bear the burden happily. And that if prices of tomatoes skyrocket, then start using yogurt. Tie a stone to the stomach, eat grass, if need be – just thank your stars that you’re on the good side of inflation. There are remedies available for all your problems.

Also read: Gen Bajwa can bet on Pakistan’s divided politics. Imran Khan’s defiance will lead to nothing

The strange remedies

Listen to the governor of State Bank of Pakistan when he shares that the rising dollar is actually good for overseas Pakistanis because it means when they send remittances back home, the exchange rate would be better. Forget the fact that the relatives who receive these remittances in Pakistan face escalating prices of local goods due to dollar rise. Be warned about the positive side-effects of dollar rise. In line with the logic of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, information minister Shaukat Yousafzai, famously known for putting on a cat filter during a Facebook live presser, viewed the dollar increase as beneficial for Pakistan.

If one adheres to the advice of Kashmir affairs minister Ali Amin Gandapur, then putting less sugar in tea and eating less bread will not only free you of inflation but probably of life as well. “I put 100 grains of sugar in my tea. If I put nine grains less, will the tea taste less sweet?” asks the guy who was once caught with ‘honey’ in the bottles of double black label. “Our forefathers sacrificed a lot.” Did they sacrifice so that we could count sugar grains? Gandapur also suggests that if there is 9 per cent inflation, then nine less bites of roti is the way forward for the country. Not to forget that do ki jagah ek roti is yet another novel way to beat the flour prices. And if you do that today, tomorrow you may even be able to eat 2.5 rotis.

Also read: Pakistan wants an Afghanistan acceptable to the West — Islam plus democracy

The blatant denial

Some offer remedies, some are in denial. Mehngai bohat hai? Just look at the sales of Toyota in a month. Let them eat Toyota is Pakistan’s “let them eat cake”. Information minister Fawad Chaudhry already gave the ‘good news’ that the PTI government’s promise of 10 million jobs has been fulfilled in the last three years. No one knows how, considering he had previously asked people not to expect “look towards the government” to provide jobs. Moreover, the Economic Survey 2020-2021 notes that 71 million workers were rendered jobless due to Covid-19 lockdowns and the unemployment rate in the country was 16 per cent contrary to the government claim of 6.5 per cent.

Sometimes it is mafias, sometimes previous governments, sometimes it is something that someone plans to do supernaturally. But the Imran Khan government is never at fault. This is the hallmark of the current regime. Credit is theirs; blame is on everyone else.

All you need to do is look at the petroleum prices in the international market and be satisfied you don’t live in Canada. Or better yet, watch the old speeches of PM Imran Khan giving calls for strikes against the government dropping “petrol bombs”, burning the electricity bills and educating us that when the inflation rises, understand that your prime minister is a chor (thief). Shocking, if it is untrue today.

The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.

(Edited by Prashant)

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