HAS PEOPLE-CENTRIC GOVERNMENT BROUGHT RELIEF FOR MASSES?
SHAMSUL GHANI (email@example.com)
Nov 30 - Dec 06, 2009
Democracy is a rule of governance that promises equity and social justice. The developed democracies have immensely benefited from this globally popular form of governance. Its efficacy in the case of under-developed and insufficiently educated nations remains dubious. Pakistan is perhaps the only state that is ruled by feudal demagogues - human species that is ruthless and heartless to the highest imaginable degree.
It uses the common person just to acquire power, which it invariably looses after a few years of acquisition, thanks to its primitive and inhumane ways of governance.
Our elite society and the media were proverbially on the moon after Feb 2008 election that was won by the so-called democratic forces on the shady promise of releasing the masses from the clutches of a draconian rule, under which wheat flour was as dear as Rs.17 per Kg and sugar Rs.34 per Kg, all other eatables carrying a proportional price tag.
Gullible masses were quite happy to raise slogans against the then despot who was ultimately dethroned in August 2008. The masses were immediately handed over the fruits of democracy. Table-1 showing prices of essential food items speaks of the transition that has taken place in the lives of the masses.
TABLE-1 PRICES OF FOOD ITEMS DURING OCT 2009 Wheat flour Rs.31 Sugar Rs.50.38* Rice broken Rs.43.27 Rice IRRI Rs.33.19 Masoor Rs.117.66 Moong Rs.62.96 Mash Rs.105 Gram pulse Rs.48.16 Potatoes Rs.21.12 Beef Rs.185 Mutton Rs.307 Tomatoes Rs.38.58 Milk fresh Rs.46.92 per ltr Eggs Rs.71 per dzn Onions Rs.23.27 Veg. ghee Rs.353
(a tin of 25kg)
Cooking oil Rs.353
(a tin of 25 ltr)
(All prices are per kg unless otherwise stated; * availability not guaranteed)
State bank's tight monetary policy aimed at controlling credit and money supply backfired as the inflation touched new heights during FY-2009 when food segment of CPI hit 23.7 percent mark. The core inflation too got out of control and reached heights that were never scaled in our economic history. The cash rich segment of the society generously contributed to the rising inflation. The below-the-poverty-line and bordering cash starved segments were hit hard as usual when their sagging purchasing power received further jolts.
TABLE-2 TRENDS IN INFLATION
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX WHOLESALE PRICE INDEX CORE INFLATION . General Food Non Food General Food Non Food Non Food
Trimmed Fiscal Year 4.6 6.0 3.6 7.9 7.0 8.6 3.8 3.9 2004 9.3 12.5 7.1 6.8 10.7 4.0 7.2 8.8 2005 7.9 6.9 8.6 10.1 7.0 12.4 7.5 7.0 2006 7.8 10.3 6.0 6.9 8.9 5.6 5.9 6.9 2007 12.0 17.6 7.9 16.4 19.0 14.6 8.4 10.2 2008 20.8 23.7 18.4 18.2 23.2 14.4 17.6 19.2 2009
Feudal lords in league with the vested interests have taken to choke the life line of masses by making their living almost impossible without realizing that the repercussions of this freak mentality will be highly destructive not only for the country but for themselves too. This is high time they think of giving some respite to the masses by checking their impulse to go for a kill.
Doubling the prices of essential items like wheat flour, sugar etc. within eighteen months of democratic rule is a crime of the highest magnitude and reflects badly on the globally popular system of governance. Masses have a right to say that the yesteryears' autocratic rule was much better when the specter of hunger had not assumed such monstrous proportions.
No doubt, during 2007-08, global food prices had seen unprecedented rise but that was due to the onslaught of speculative forces that were soon punished by the inherent weaknesses of global financial system. The dust has long settled down and inflationary economies everywhere have broken into recessionary economies. Rate of inflation all over the world has drastically come down.
Pakistan still boasts of having the highest rate of inflation in the region. We are basically an agriculture economy. There is no reason why the prices of wheat, rice, and sugar that we locally produce in abundance keep rising all the time. We often hear of bumper wheat, rice and sugarcane crops, then why we are having more than 77 million people on or below the poverty line.
This poverty line is fast moving upward and is now targeting the middle and upper middle classes of the country. It is time for the ruling elite and the opposition to disengage themselves from such phony issues as Charter of Democracy, NRO, 58-2B etc. and do something for the masses, not for the sake of the masses but for the sake of democracy or else this democratic honeymoon may turn out to be really short-lived.
TABLE-3 FOOD CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (BASE YEAR 2000-01=100)
GROUP GROUP WEIGHT
INDICES Oct 2009 Sep 2009 Oct 2008 General 100 209.11 207.14 192.08 Food & Beverages 40.34 238.12 235.59 221.44 Non Perishable Food Items 35.20 234.62 232.86 219.82 Perishable Food Items 5.14 262.08 254.30 232.50
One may suggest that our Statistical Division should be renamed as Static Division. The economic data compilation work is based on decades old assumptions. In the present inflationary food market low and middle income groups have to spend around 75 percent of their income on food alone.