Concerns about rising inflation during the initial week of Ramadan have gripped the populace, impacting their purchasing power. Residents lament that the phenomenon of self-inflation during Ramadan is straining their finances. While shopkeepers assert a decline in food prices, economists remain skeptical about imminent inflation control measures.

Naveed Khan, residing in Charsadda district, voiced dissatisfaction over inflated chicken prices. Despite the official rate listing chicken at 650 rupees per kg, he purchased it for 800 rupees. Naveed emphasized the necessity of food items for every household, expressing frustration at shopkeepers charging arbitrary rates.

Rahimullah, a father of five and Chingchi driver, recounted his recent vegetable purchase from the Charsadda market, highlighting the exorbitant prices. He noted a distressing trend of having to reduce his children’s food intake due to escalating costs. Rahimullah’s monthly income of 500 to 700 rupees, subject to traffic fines, falls short of meeting essential expenses like clothing, education, and healthcare.

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Reflecting on his recent vegetable purchase, Rahimullah bemoaned the escalating prices, citing tomatoes at 150 rupees, potatoes at 250 rupees, and onions at 200 rupees per kg. He expressed concern over the affordability of essential items, stating his inability to purchase vegetables exceeding 50 rupees per kg.

They admit ignorance about the price list and the shopkeepers’ adherence to it. To ensure fairness, all shopkeepers should ethically and legally comply with the price lists issued by the district administration.

The latest report from the Bureau of Statistics indicates a 1.35% increase in the prices of 18 food items during the first week of Ramadan. Notably, bananas and tomatoes surged by 22%, while eggs saw a 7% hike. Additionally, onions rose by 6%, along with increases in garlic, mutton, beef, and chicken prices. The annual inflation rate soared to 32.89%, with garlic registering a 60% increase, onions 90%, jaggery 41%, and sugar 37%.

Masood Khan, a vegetable vendor in Charsadda, observed a recent decrease in vegetable prices attributed to the government’s ban on food item exports. He cited notable reductions in tomato, onion, potato, pea, gourd, cucumber, and cabbage prices, facilitating affordability for local consumers.

Khan explained that vegetables priced above 100 rupees are often sourced from Punjab or Karachi, where transportation costs inflate due to high petrol and diesel prices. Conversely, locally produced vegetables remain reasonably priced, benefiting consumers.

Similarly, Samiullah, a chicken seller, lamented the adverse impact of recent inflation on his business. Chicken prices have dropped from 450 to 415 rupees per kg, but reduced purchasing power has diminished sales. While he previously sold over 30 maunds of chicken meat during Ramadan, this year’s inflationary pressures have limited sales to only 10 maunds, further affecting profitability amidst decreased demand.

Economists are grappling with the challenge of reigning in the persistent inflation plaguing the country. They assert that achieving political stability, curbing government spending, and securing a bailout from the IMF could potentially alleviate the situation.

Dr. Shahid Khan, a prominent economic expert, emphasized the importance of lowering interest rates to stimulate economic growth. According to him, a reduction in interest rates encourages business investment, fostering a conducive environment for economic expansion and the circulation of money.

Currently, the country’s interest rate stands at a staggering 22 percent. Dr. Shahid anticipates that the State Bank’s policy, slated for release on March 18, may marginally decrease the interest rate by 1 percent, driven by reports indicating a reduction in inflation by the Bureau of Statistics. However, he remains cautious about the immediate benefits reaching the populace, as the impending budget entails a hefty payment of 8000 billion rupees towards debt interest repayment, posing a significant hurdle in the path to inflation reduction.

Analysts propose localized measures to combat inflation, advocating for the district administration to convene quarterly price control committee meetings. These meetings would facilitate the establishment of bid limits in early morning vegetable markets. Additionally, traders would be obligated to distribute food items among multiple vendors, ensuring that price control isn’t monopolized by a single entity.