Pakistan records highest-ever inflation in history

Inflation in Pakistan hit a record high of 35.4% in March 2023, according to official data. This is the highest ever inflation recorded in the country’s history.

The March inflation number soared above February’s 31.5% as food, beverage, and transport prices surged up to 50% year-on-year. The consumer price index was up 3.72% in March from the previous month, the bureau said.

“This is the highest ever inflation recorded in the data we have,” a spokesman at the statistics bureau said. The inflation number was the highest ever year-on-year increase recorded by the bureau since monthly records began in the 1970s.

Annual food inflation in March was at 47.1% and 50.2% for urban and rural areas respectively, the bureau said.

The March inflation number was the highest annual rate since available data that is July 1965, according to the research firm Arif Habib Ltd, and is expected to rise in the coming months.

Food inflation

Higher prices of food, cooking oil and electricity pushed up the index, the bureau said.

Key food items that registered price hikes the most in March 2023 compared to March 2022 were:

  • Onions — 257%
  • Tea — 105%
  • Wheat — 94%
  • Eggs — 83.60%
  • Rice — 82%
  • Wheat flour — 69.98%
  • Pulse Moong — 58%
  • Besan — 56%
  • Cooking Oil — 53.51%
  • Fresh Fruits — 51%
  • Fresh Milk — 35.86%
  • Chicken — 41.93% and Fish — 22% and Meat — 20.83%
  • Sugar — 19%

Non-food category inflation

In the non-food category, the items whose prices saw the highest increase were

  • Textbooks — 74%
  • Motor fuel — 71.6%
  • Stationery — 67%
  • Gas charges 62.8%
  • Motor vehicles — 45.5%
  • Household equipment — 42%
  • Electricity — 31.73%
  • Transport services — 30.56%
  • Doctor Clinic Fees — 22.86%

Experts criticize Govt policies

Experts have criticized the government’s wrong policy approach to the surging food and energy prices. Traders have also blamed the record inflation on the government’s “poor policies.” 

Economist Dr. Ashfaque Hassan Khan said criticized the government’s approach to dealing with the issue. “We are administering the wrong medicine to treat inflation in Pakistan” he said. Unlike in advanced economies, “inflation is a supply-side phenomenon in Pakistan which is coupled with the government raising utility prices itself” Dr Khan told Arab News. He said that tightening monetary policy was “not at all an instrument to control inflation in Pakistan” since the mechanism was meant for advanced economies where demand was responsible for greater inflationary pressure.

Stampedes amid inflation

Amid skyrocketing inflation, the government has set up distribution centers for free or subsidized flour across the country to ease the impact of inflation. However, at least 16 people, including women and three children, have been killed in stampedes at such centers in recent days. Thousands of bags of flour have also been reportedly looted from trucks and distribution points.

Pakistani traders to protest record inflation after Eid

Pakistani traders on Saturday announced holding nationwide conventions after Eid Al-Fitr to protest unprecedented inflation.

“We will hold nationwide conventions after Eid and will take to the streets if the issues were not resolved”, Kashif Chaudhry, president of the main association of traders in Pakistan, said at a press conference.

“Along with the public, traders are being affected the most by inflation. Markets are deserted, factories are closed and workers are unemployed,” he said. 

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