In April and May, the cash-starved nation recorded the highest inflation rate in Asia
A customer buys rice at a wholesale shop in Karachi on June 8, 2023. (Photo: AFP)
The head of the Catholic Church in Pakistan has urged the authorities to unite to save the South Asian nation’s battered economy as inflation hit record levels in the last two months — the highest in Asia.
The Church appeals to all leaders “to work for the progress and prosperity of the country beyond political benefits,” said Archbishop Joseph Arshad, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.
On June 8, the country's annual economic survey revealed a mere 0.3 percent in GDP growth in the 2022-23 period as the agriculture, industry, and export sectors failed miserably due to record high inflation and a slowdown compounded by devastating floods last year.
“There is a need to face the current economic challenges as one nation. There is an urgent need to provide basic needs. A strong plan to revive moral values in society is the need of the hour,” Archbishop Arshad said in a June 9 press statement.
According to the survey, unveiled by the finance minister, Ishaq Dar, the average year-on-year inflation rate for the period up to May 2023 was recorded at 29.2 percent.In April and May, the country's inflation hit record levels of 36.4 and 37.97 percent according to the statistics bureau, which was the highest in Asia. The country is also facing the risk of defaulting on debts.
Skyrocketing global commodity prices, supply chain disruptions, the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, currency depreciation, and political unrest took inflation to the highest level in the country, the survey said.The nation has also failed to unlock crucial loans from the International Monetary Fund.
"For us, inflation is really killing us"
Father Mario Rodrigues, the rector of St. Patrick’s High School in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, noted that inflation has affected the poor more, including Christians.
“The middle and lower middle classes are suffering a lot. For us, inflation is really killing us,” he said.
Pastor I. B. Rocky of Bahar Colony, home to 50,000 Christians and 80 churches in Lahore, Pakistan's second-largest city, is afraid of returning home empty-handed as prices of food items have gone through the roof.
“To get good rice,” you have to be “at weddings or funeral functions,” he noted.
The cost of living is a serious problem. Wheat and rice are becoming more and more expensive,” Rocky told UCA News.
There is no price check. A bag of flour of the same brand and quality is sold at different prices at different shops, he added.
Last summer, floods devastated Pakistan, and submerged one-third of the country, killing more than 1,700 people and affecting around 33 million, with nearly 8 million displaced.
The cash-strapped government unveiled a 14.5 trillion rupee (around US$50.5 billion) budget on June 9, with a spectacular salary hike for government staff and a boost to the defense budget, with a 16 percent increase.
“We want roti [flat bread), not weapons. The government employees only account for 20 percent of the population. Salaries have not gone up for the rest of us,” Rocky said, echoing the general view.
The current government, headed by Shehbaz Sharif, came to power in April 2022 after former Prime Minister Imran Khan was ousted in a trust vote.
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