Recently, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif made surprise visits to various Utility Stores (USC) outlets in the federal capital to personally oversee the distribution of the Prime Minister’s Ramazan Relief Package. During his visit, according to media reports, the Prime Minister also spoke to the beneficiaries and inquired from them about the difficulties that they faced in accessing the package. Well done!

Be that as it may, providing essential food items to the poor through the USC on subsidized rates is a good government step. But the question is whether or not Ramazan Packages are any solution. In my view, no Ramazan or non-Ramazan package addresses the growing challenge of deepening poverty in the country.

People belonging to different socio-economic classes, particularly the middle class, have been hit the hardest by the current economic situation, which is strongly characterized by, among things, high inflation and price hike, growing unemployment and deepening societal polarization.

But before I say anything more in this regard it is necessary to arrive at a clear and unambiguous definition of phrase ‘middle class’: it is the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business people and their families.

The problem with this socio-economic group and also many of those who are described as people belonging to lower middle class is that they would not like to be seen at a Utility Store outlet or in queues that are formed by the government agencies to ensure provision of essential items such as wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar and rice at subsidized rates.

In my view, the majority of the poor too are often found reluctant to go the Ramazan Package way as they are among those people who are having low levels of income but fulfilling their economic needs without asking help from others. Having said that, I would request the incumbent government to stop doing things that win political points for optics.

It must instead take steps that are clearly aimed at bringing about discernable improvement in the state of economy as early as possible in order to deal with the challenges such as rising price hike, inflation and growing joblessness in an effective and meaningful manner.

Abdul Sattar Nizamani


Copyright Business Recorder, 2024


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