Weekly inflation in Pakistan jumps to 42.3% as prices increase ahead of Ramadan – The Current

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According to data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Friday, weekly inflation surged by 1.37 per cent week-on-week and 42.27 per cent year-on-year during the week ended March 9. This marks a 25-week high on an annualized basis, as prices of perishables have started to rise ahead of Ramadan. The surge in the sensitive price indicator (SPI) was attributed to the increase in prices of various commodities, including tomatoes, potatoes, onions, sugar, bananas, cooking oil, wheat flour, vegetable ghee, printed lawn, curd, milk, tea, shirting, broken basmati rice, and powdered salt. Meanwhile, a major decrease was observed in the prices of chicken, garlic, pulse moong, eggs, pulse masoor, LPG, firewood, and pulse gram.

For the week under review, SPI was recorded at 243.87 points, compared to 240.57 points registered last week and 171.41 points recorded during the week ended March 10, 2022. Brokerage Arif Habib Limited noted that this was the highest weekly YoY number since September 8, 2022, when Pakistan recorded a rise of 42.70 per cent YoY on account of an all-time high in the prices of wheat flour following massive flooding across the fertile plains of Punjab and Sindh.

The PBS data attributed the YoY rise in SPI to the jump in the prices of onions, cigarettes, gas charges for Q1, diesel, eggs, rice Irri-6/9, petrol, broken basmati rice, bananas, pulse moong, tea, pulse mash, pulse gram, and bread. Inflation has been rising sharply over the past couple of years, with Pakistanis, particularly those from lower and middle-income groups, struggling to make ends meet.

The sticky inflation numbers, along with the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme, have pushed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to raise its benchmark interest rate by 300 basis points to a 26-year high. Pakistan is desperately trying to persuade the IMF to disburse critical $1.1 billion funding, but inflation worries have led the central bank to elevate its interest rates by 10 percentage points since January 2022.

Analysts expect that the recent decisions taken by the government to please the IMF for a meagre $1.1 billion bailout tranche could result in massive poverty, while businesspersons have also not ruled out a default despite fiscal tightening. The YoY SPI increased by 39.09 per cent, 40.98 per cent, 41.79 per cent, 42.53 per cent, and 44.14 per cent respectively for the groups spending up to Rs17,732; Rs17,733-22,888; Rs22,889-29,517; Rs29,518-44,175; and above Rs44,175.

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