May 252008

Inflation squeezes common man’s budget

By Faryal Najeeb

KARACHI: Rabia Bibi’s eyes immediately misted with tears when asked how she has been managing her three children on a meagre amount of Rs4,000, which is her husband’s monthly salary after working hard as a labourer for six to seven hours a day.

Food inflation in Pakistan rose to 25.5 per cent in April, double the level of 12.2 per cent four months ago in December, making common man’s life miserable to the point of frustration.

Rabia Bibi claims that making ends meet is dangerously becoming critical for her and she fears that her husband may lose his mind some day fretting over “the cursed inflation and the pain it is causing us.”

She informs that over the past four months her monthly kitchen budget, which comprises only basic food items, has increased by Rs550 to Rs600 and has reduced the couple’s meal to one time a day while they continue to feed their children small amounts of food three times to prevent them from being hungry throughout the day.

“Just this month, I started working as a domestic worker in two houses to earn an extra income of Rs1,500 monthly to improve our condition and make ends meet,” she discloses. “My eldest son is only 7 years’ old while my youngest daughter is 11 months, but I have to leave them alone at home to work, otherwise we all will starve,” she says while weeping.

Rabia Bibi’s daily meal comprises only ‘Dal Roti’ with an occasional treat of curry or rice which her husband brings home from leftovers at work. She informs that Rs2,900 to Rs3,100 of the income goes to their food while the remaining few hundred rupees are spent on miscellaneous expenses.

Nilofer is a housewife with five children while her husband runs a small shop in the Liaquat Market. She states that her housing budget has increased by Rs4,000 to Rs5,000 since January with an average increase of Rs800 to Rs900 every month.

She mentions “A common pulse such as masoor was Rs62 per kg in December while now it is being sold for Rs95 per kg. We use ‘sila’ variety of rice which cost Rs70 per kg some time ago while just two days ago I purchased it for Rs100 per kg.”

“Imagine the difference over a period of four months, especially now when years seem to have turned into months and months into days. A simple middle-class family cannot afford even satisfying meals anymore,” she exclaims sadly.

Nilofer says that their monthly budget has also been affected due to the fact that inflation has hit almost every sector. This has led to further fragmentation in society as entertaining guests has become an expensive time pass.

“If you are inviting guests and you cook food in the house, your pride would compel you to prepare at least two items if not more. Of course, we cannot offer our guests ‘dal roti’, so one item of chicken and maybe one item of rice are essential,” she elaborates.

Continuing with her calculation, she goes on to say “Chicken is Rs180 per kg now, even spices such as red chilli have increased by Rs15 to Rs20 whereas wheat has hiked back to Rs22 per kg compared to Rs16 per kg a few months ago.”

In short, Nilofer estimates that entertaining an average of four guests at a time would now cost at least Rs300 extra, if the items are restricted to simple dishes without much grandeur.

She informs that during the first month of the year, she purchased groceries for Rs4,000 but says that just two days earlier she made her regular purchases for Rs7,093. “My husband earns Rs15,000 per month and now we are beginning to feel the strain of inflation as if I spend Rs8,000 on grocery, then how will my husband continue to manage our children’s school fees and the rent of our house,” she points out.

Aisha Khatoon is also a housewife and cites similar figures as given by Nilofer. She says that they have witnessed a hike in their budget not only due to food inflation but also because transportation expenses have increased along with school fees and other minor expenditures.

“In order to curb inflation, I think it’s essential to check rising oil prices as people may eat less to an extent, but after that they would have to draw a line somewhere. Spiraling oil prices aren’t helping the case in any way,” she says.

“Simple steps by the government can make a lot of difference in our society like banning export of wheat, rice and all other commodities that are scarce in our country. Our country’s expenditure-to-income ratio is drastically squeezing and if something is not done soon, Pakistan would go 60 years backward,” she warns.

Courtesy: The News, 25/5/2008

 Posted by at 2:57 pm

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