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Pakistan

Soaring inflation dampens Eid holiday spirit

  • Dire economic straits have cast a decidedly sombre mood across Pakistan's normally vibrant markets
Published April 19, 2023
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

LAHORE: The holiday that marks the end of Ramadan used to be a guaranteed earner for Pakistan’s small shops and businesses – a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year.

This year, however, many worry they will not even make enough to pay their monthly rent, with inflation hitting its highest levels in decades and political turmoil miring the country in uncertainty.

“There are no customers, there are no buyers,” said Shehzad Ahmed, who runs a shop selling bags, jewellery and other goods in the eastern city of Lahore.

The South Asian country of more than 220 million people saw year-on-year inflation hit 35.4 percent in March. Food prices surged more than 47 percent in 12 months, with transport costs rising by 55 percent.

Pakistan is deeply in debt and needs to introduce tough reforms to unlock a tranche of a $6.5 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund in order to avoid default.

The economy has been wrecked by years of financial mismanagement and political instability – a situation exacerbated by a global energy crisis and devastating floods that left a third of the country under water last year.

The end of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, is celebrated by Muslims around the world by feasting with relatives and friends, exchanging gifts, and dressing up in new clothes and shoes.

 Women buy jewelry at market during shopping ahead of the upcoming festival of Eid al-Fitr in Lahore. The holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan used to be a guaranteed earner for Pakistan’s small shops and businesses – a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year.  AFP
Women buy jewelry at market during shopping ahead of the upcoming festival of Eid al-Fitr in Lahore. The holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan used to be a guaranteed earner for Pakistan’s small shops and businesses – a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year. AFP

The dire economic straits have, however, cast a decidedly sombre mood across the country’s normally vibrant markets.

“There are significantly fewer shoppers compared to last year – and it’s because of inflation,” trader Saif Ali told AFP.

‘Going through the motions’

Sheikh Amir, who runs a small shop selling glass bangles and imitation jewellery, said he was usually able to earn enough for the whole year during Eid.

“It’s become very difficult these days,” he said. “We are just going through the motions in the hope that we will be able to make enough to pay the rent for our shops.”

Major shopping districts across the country usually see a surge in spending in the week leading up to the holiday, which begins with the sighting of the new moon, expected this weekend.

In urban centres, markets and shops stay open until after midnight – many putting on special offers or sales to attract customers.

Eid festivities of old era recalled fondly

Twinkling holiday lights adorn many bazaars to attract customers, while street vendors set up stalls offering special holiday treats.

This year, all have reported a significant drop in sales.

“Our business is slow,” said Ali, who was hoping to sell hundreds of embroidered shawls in the run-up to Eid.

For Fatima Azhar Mehmood, a mother of seven daughters, this Eid will be a budget-conscious one.

 Women walk past a garment shop at a market during shopping ahead of the upcoming festival of Eid al-Fitr in Lahore. The holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan used to be a guaranteed earner for Pakistan’s small shops and businesses – a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year. AFP
Women walk past a garment shop at a market during shopping ahead of the upcoming festival of Eid al-Fitr in Lahore. The holiday that marks the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan used to be a guaranteed earner for Pakistan’s small shops and businesses – a big-spending week that could match the take from the rest of the year. AFP

“I have to shop for them, and at the same time I have to buy things for the house,” she said.

Instead of buying off-the-rack clothes for the girls, Fatima went shopping for fabric in the Old Lahore district and plans to home-stitch their holiday outfits.

“We have to buy rations, buy things for the children… and our rent is going to be due soon too,” she said.

Shocked at the price of goods this year, Amna Asim decided that in her household, only the children would get gifts this year – adult relatives would have to go without.

“Shopping for the kids is a must,” she said.

“We can’t leave the kids out. Even if we don’t get anything for ourselves we must get something for the kids.”

Comments

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Tulukan Mairandi Apr 19, 2023 04:28pm
Probably the last eid as a united Pakistan!
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Nadeem Apr 19, 2023 06:07pm
@Tulukan Mairandi, you are a sick man, bahi ALLAH ka vasta hai ye manhoos batein na kro. Moderators it's a request to please block him from commenting
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Boncr Apr 20, 2023 05:28am
@Tulukan Mairandi, I agreed with you when our army is currupted.
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Kareem Apr 22, 2023 09:32pm
@Nadeem, what he is saying is true. May Allah give freedom to Balochistan, KPK, Sindh and GB from Pakistan and inflation.
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