by Mudassar.Hussain Mughal
Pakistan is facing a number of constraints in the path of social economic and political development. One of them is the ever-increasing inflationary pressure on the general public. This inflationary pressure created a social instability and misconception among the messes towards the Government. General public considers the government responsible for this inflation. Government gave the blunt gift of inflation, unemployment, terrorism and energy crisis to the public. The government offended the masses. Some economists argue that such type of increase in prices was never seen before the regime of Musharaf. The prices of essential domestic commodities have touched the psychological boundaries. The fixed income employees and creditors are affected by this inflation.
During five years the prices of red chilli increased by 62.7%, flour 66.2% vegetable oil 120% sugar 30.9% rice 69.9% and other essential domestic commodities like vegetables, chicken etc also showed increasing trend of prices. According to official reports the inflation rate is 7.2% and according to non-official reports like UN 8.6% World Bank 8.9% and Asian Development Bank 9.1%. This inflationary pressure has psychologically affected the employees and employers. Some renounced economists argue that the reason of this increasing inflation rate is the standard year 2001 according to which inflation rate is measured. In 2001 the foreign aid was given to Pakistan therefore low standards were made to measure the inflation rate. Although the increasing trend in the prices of fuel and other things in the international market is another factor but the standard year is also a factor.
Not only these factors caused hyperinflation but also energy crisis played a vital role in this hyper change in the prices of daily use domestic and capital commodities.
There are three main resources used to fulfil the energy requirements Electricity, Fuel and Gas. Despite having the treasure of natural energy resources, Pakistan’s energy production plants are not fulfilling the country’s requirements effectively. The present energy crisis is affecting the economy entirely. Industrial and daily life has paralysed by this energy crisis. WAPDA is just fulfilling the country’s energy need near to 46% the remaining is fulfilled by the alternative expensive resources. The energy crisis created cost pull inflation in the country, as electricity is the key material for any production plant. There is a general observation of 5-10 hours of load shedding, but some times it hits the level of 18 hours. Even the industrial capital of Pakistan (Karachi) is suffering from the same situation.
Why in the era of energy reservation Pakistan is not utilizing its energy resources? Pakistan is just relaying on the electricity production by Dams. But Pakistan has not enough dams or water to generate electricity. Although WAPADA is enjoying the monopoly but government has to pay 2 rupee/unit as incentive. Our neighbouring country India has built a number of Dams to overcome the energy crisis but Pakistan government has paid no heed on this issue. Many projects are delayed due to provincialism the glaring example is of Kala Bagh Dam. The costly machinery amounted US $9 million is now functionless due to (rust) delay in the construction of Kala Bagh Dam, Some scientists predicted that in next 10year world has to face the water shortage also.
If the government fails to construct dams for the generation of electricity due to Provincialism government should have to adopt alternative options to accomplish the energy needs of the country. As Iran has large treasure of natural energy resources like natural gas and fuel, despite this Iran is engaged in the attainment of nuclear power generation plant. Pakistan, despite being an atomic power does not think about the nuclear electric generation plant. International community is imposing sanctions on Iran due to uranium enrichment but Iran pays no heed to them. Then why is the Pakistani government reluctant to use its nuclear plants to tackle energy crisis?
Secondly, Pakistan’s western area especially Thar is enriched by natural coal, which is the fifth largest treasure of the world. Pakistan has signed a contract with China to generate 300 Mega watts by coal deposits in 2003, but due to some reasons it has not been completed till now.
Industrialists due to high prices of electricity use alternative resources (petrol) in electric generators to fulfil their energy needs but, the fuel (petrol) prices in international market cross the psychological limits of US $110/beryl recently. The high prices of fuel and electricity created a long-term cost pull inflation (increase in the prices of raw material of one commodity cause high prices of other commodities).
There are a lot of expectations with the new government as Nawaz Sharif pledged that if he came in rule he will fix the prices of domestic commodities like vegetables oil, floor, sugar and rice for two years. Now the new government should take basic steps to eradicate inflation. I think energy crisis is the real cause of this inflationary pressure. We are hopeful that new government will take some positive steps to fulfil its promises and public expectations.
(The writer is a student of Hailey College of Banking and Finance)
Courtesy: The Nation, 31/3/2008