Food crisis may lead to social and political unrest
August 12, 2011
The increasing prices of essential commodities have pushed thousands of more Pakistanis below the poverty line that is likely to fuel unrest in the country. The major portion of average Pakistan’s income is being spent on the purchase of food items. Rising prices have impacted country’s 36 percent population.
According to a United Kingdom UK based organization, Oxfam, about two third of Pakistan’s poor population is the victim of food insecurity and is forced to spend major part of income, 50 to 70 percent, on the purchase of food and related items.
The prices spiral that took off in the late 2010 is continuing its upward trend which has hit the income of poor to large extent, making average Pakistan vulnerable. Pakistan is among the 21 countries of the world where people face food paucity or malnutrition. The main reason of the food shortage is the rising prices of commodities and limited income. Last years devastating floods also contributed to the food shortage. The victims of floods still await government response to rehabilitate.
The inflation rate is stubbornly high in the recent years despite the incumbent government’s repeated claims to bring it down to single digit. The July, first month of the current fiscal year, has registered 13.77 percent inflation rate which is expected to further soar owing to traditional profiteering in the month of Ramadan. Pakistan has witness as high as 25 percent inflation rate in the past.
The prices of core commodities such as vegetables, chicken etc. have gone up by manifold, making it more difficult for poor segment of society to purchase.
With the onset of holy month of Ramadan profiteering starts in the country to unprecedented level. Business community, from retailers to shopkeepers, assuming the Ramadan as the opportunity to maximize their profit increase prices by manifold. Unfortunately this practice, every years, goes unnoticed on the part of government’s machinery which is supposed to protect the interests of citizens.
Though the government every year announces relief for the poor in the name of Ramadan package through Utility Stores but large number of population can not avail this facility due to limited number of stores and unlimited rush at these stores.
Oxfam warns that the price hike is increasing the number of undernourished people in Pakistan to dangerous level. The price hike may lead to the social and political unrest in the country.
Government of Pakistan must develop a policy framework to not only check unjust price hikes but also stabilize the domestic economy, suggests Oxfam adding that revival of the local economy is important to create jobs. “The people around the world are calling for bold actions from their leaders but getting little more than speeches”, says Oxfam executive director, Jeremy Hobbs.
The situation in Pakistan can be viewed in the light of what Jeremy Hobbs described. At a time when poor segment of population clamor for relief in the backdrop of sky rocketing commodities prices the priority of incumbent government seems to be restoration of alliances with the coalition partners rather than heeding their voices. The government authorities fix prices of commodities but for no avail. Question arises that why these cosmetic steps are being taken if can not be implemented practically in letter and spirit.
Pakistan is currently embroiled by country’s partners in war on terror as front line state. The growing militancy and drawdown of US military from Afghanistan may pose even greater risk to the internal stability of country. The only way out of this grave situation is to take bold steps to stabilize national economy in order to stop youth from joining militants’ ranks.