SOCIAL TURMOIL OF PRICE HIKE

AHSAN A. SHAH, MBA-Marketing
Apr 21 - 27, 2008

A Global Challenge, "where rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer." Not so a challenge here in Pakistan. A country found solely and wholly in the interests of minorities, and more significantly on an ideology based on Islam, captivating a profound system for distribution of wealth in the form of ZAKAT; which, in itself a stronger notion than the parallel Government Tax System, wheedling to keep the parity between the ones who have and the ones who do not, incessantly fails, even to address the very challenge to commence with. Hence no challenge accepted on part of our Government!

On the contrary the challenge status gets even more interesting, where our country's Government gets extreme on policies devised, perhaps in an interpretation to exterminate not the poverty but the poor. Where countries devise policies that try to increase GDP and with it try to extinguish or at least curb the poverty levels, here the policies are formulated to costume the gigantic cartels and business lobbies. Agreed the case is definitely synonymous to the ones other than our country, but then there is an explicit respite at poverty lines in those countries. Not to forget the unambiguous deployments of crystal clear corporate social responsibilities (CSR) in those countries as well. Definitely not like the ones here, which are mostly involved in trying to tailor a "KURTA" so that they can fit into the Guinness Book of World Record in contemplation that they can some how manage their brand more competitively through creative mean. A pointer for them-they could have used those budgets for a higher cause, but in a country like ours where one seeks brand gains more restlessly and with no cross checks by respective authorities, such survival issues appear trivial at an expense that no one is willing to bear. And even if some do consider undertaking these higher causes they make sure there is a good commercial benefit or a sizable tax evasion attached or followed.

It is to an utter abhorrence that we have stooped and to an extent that facing our true selves in mirror brings us no pertinent repentance. We "can not" or even worse "do not" want to look into the hard facts of life and that is who in this world of extreme cut throat competition and inflation sky high, is able to feed their siblings or any other dependants. The question is no longer of wants or more importantly of giving a good education or a better life style, it's merely of survival and by God it has befallen desperate measures.

Where minimum wage is set to Rs.6000 per month and our ministers not encouraged driving cars above 1600 cc politicians might think they have breathed some sigh of relief, but they have merely begun to put things on right course. It's not as simple as it looks, and what's more it never has been, and an even less heartening factor- no one learns. These people are obviously not the ones who spend Rs.6000 or even more dining one time at an extravagant restaurant in some star hotel. Then who are these people? They are surely the opposite class who are nervous even to sustain two meals in a day. Mind boggling; perhaps for a Muslim State and for the Government that is in deep slumber on such issues. But then is the Government only to be blamed or are we the true culprits playing the blame game?

It has been a sorry sight to see a case in the lower classes, composed of a family of 6 on an average; a couple, 2 parents and 2 children (with an exception, there may be more children). With the senior citizens retired and young children who obviously cannot work and a house wife, the only way to this average family's bread and butter is a single monthly income tantamount to the minimum salary of Rs.6000. Now this is a case of "black comedy" where the government expects the children not to work, because surely there are child labor laws in the country and we are so modest at a national level that we don't boast about them at all. Senior citizens who have already retired hurt - not playing sports obviously- cannot work either. Ironically both are found working. And if these miseries were not adequate then someone might pass by in a 1600cc car or above doing nothing concrete for these deprived soles but sporadically involved to issue a statement or two which would necessitate the parent's character as wicked and careless for not putting their children through school or even worse making there parents going through a tough time when they actually should have enjoyed their retirement period. Some would just pass by without noticing any anomaly in the world around them and those my friends fit truly to the definition of low lives.

With Flour prices hitting Rs.25 per kg, Rice per kg going up as high as Rs.90, Sugar Rs.28, and Milk Rs.40, so on and so forth nothing is left untouched as far as price hike is concerned. Meat which has only become a dream meal for the poor, vegetables have joined in there too. There is nothing left for the poor to feed their dependants with at ease. For all we know that what they really did was to afford a cup of tea with a single ROTI for an each dependent for breakfast and then look for some potatoes or any other affordable vegetable to nourish them in meals later in the day, even that has become an outstretched idea for them. If one actually calculates it in a bit detail then 4-5kg of flour is utilized by this family in a single day and only that sizeable flour amounts to Rs.100-125. If one multiplies this to 30 days that totals to Rs.3000-3500, which is already the half or more of the minimum salary.

One feels that the only option left for the less fortunate is to go out and snatch ones needs. Resultant corruption will further go up and most of this will reinforce unemployment and inflation- the mother of all evils. More and more cars will be stolen and more and more mobiles will be snatched. One needs to understand the dynamics of this whole situation. What's running the public crazy are the government policies and the business cartels enjoying benefits at the expense of people and their survival needs?

One does understand that oil prices can go up, prices of cars can hike or garments can get expensive but what one repeatedly fails to understand is why Government can actually allow the raise of prices for survival commodities in the form of Flour Wheat Rice, etc, and what's more the Government is doing nothing, no tangible subsidies are at offer and no concrete plans are at stake. If the Government thinks it has time to address these issues, then it is wrongfully on mistake, if things don't curb, a civil war will be inevitable. One mostly thinks hands of economics and demand and supply mechanism behind commodities" price variation however if flour supply is low it's not very intellectual on part of the Government to curb the demand for flour by raising prices. One can do this with luxury items perhaps oil, but doing it with commodities of survival will result in a national blunder. What is the Government thinking and what are the flour mills operating for. If such is the case then privatization should cease or the nationalization of such commodities should come to an end which ever one is at fault.