Once again, the first week of March in Pakistan has witnessed rising inflation. According to the Sensitive Price Indicator (SPI), inflation for the week ending on March 4, 2021, has shown an increase of over 0.6 percent as compared to the last week of February. This is despite the continued claims by the government that inflation is under control. The SPI for the week recorded nearly 148 points against 147 points registered in the last week of February. This data has been shared by none other than the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) which is as reliable as it can be. The PBS is an independent body which keeps track of such matters and its data set is quoted in a majority of reports and reviews. The combined consumption group has witnessed an overall increase of nearly 15 percent,as compared to the corresponding week of last year in 2020. This data set also gives us an idea by taking the base year of 2015-16 and covers 17 urban centres.
The SPI takes into account 51 essential items for all expenditure groups and that is a major reason why it is considered one of the most reliable indicators of where the common consumer is suffering, even if the overall economy of the country displays some improvement. The SPI for the lowest consumption group up to Rs17,700 witnessed 0.55 percent increase and it soared from 158 points in the previous week to 159.2 points in the week under review. That shows that the lowest income groups are the most hit by the rising inflation. For slightly upper income groups too,the SPI kept rising with various degrees.
The most disturbing point to note is that the prices of just five items decreased whereas 22 items showed a consistent uptick in rates. Moreover the prices of 24 items have persistently remained at the same high levels with no respite for the common consumer. The commodities that have recorded an increase in their average prices range from bananas, basmati rice, beef, chicken, curd, and gram pulse to onions, potatoes, sugar and soap. As we can see, all these items are of essential need for common people who are already under tremendous pressure because of their depleting livelihood opportunities as the Covid-19 pandemic is not showing a decline. This calls for immediate attention by the concerned authorities and the inflation trend for essential commodities needs to be checked on a priority basis to avoid causing further hardship to the people.