Pakistan government chided for ‘drink less tea, save money’ call – The Diplomat

Pakistan government chided for 'Drink less tea, save money' Pleading

FILE – A Pakistani boy works at a tea shop in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Photo: AP Photo / Mohammad Sajjad, file

On Wednesday, a minister in Pakistan’s newly elected government faced criticism after urging the nation to drink less tea to save on imports amid a deepening economic crisis.

Pakistan is one of the largest importers of tea in the world, a hugely popular drink among both rich and poor in this country of 220 million people. The government spends about $600 million of the central bank’s foreign exchange reserves annually on tea imports.

The average Pakistani is believed to drink at least three cups of tea a day, which is the country’s favorite caffeinated drink.

Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who took office in April after Imran Khan was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament, has vowed to improve the ailing economy and meet conditions set by the International Monetary Fund in a bid to revive $6 billion in bailouts. dollars. package .

However, planning minister Ahsan Iqbal’s call to drink less tea surprised many.

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“I encourage people to reduce their tea consumption by one to two cups a day because we are also borrowing money for tea that is imported,” Iqbal said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Some openly advised Iqbal on social media to step down.

“Yesterday Ahsan Iqbal asked us to drink less tea, and tomorrow they may say to eat less. Is this the solution? asked Dil Sher, owner of a roadside tea shop on the outskirts of Islamabad.

So far, the government has increased the price of fuel, natural gas and electricity by 45 percent, causing food prices to skyrocket. Last week, Sharif’s cabinet submitted its first budget to parliament for approval, levying more taxes on the wealthy and vowing to eliminate energy and fuel subsidies as required by the IMF.

To the shock of many Pakistanis, the Sharif government announced at midnight the third increase in the price of gasoline by Rs 24 in the past three weeks, bringing it to about Rs 234 per litre. Gasoline cost about 150 rupees a liter in Pakistan when Khan was ousted in April.

Khan says Sharif came to power as a result of a US conspiracy, but Washington denies the accusation. Sharif and the military nations also denied Khan’s claim, saying there was no evidence of a US plot to overthrow Khan.

Hours of power outages in Pakistan also made Sharif’s coalition government unpopular.

Khan’s now-opposition party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also tweeted saying Sharif’s government had hurt the economy just two months after taking office. However, Sharif says he is paying the price for the mismanagement of his predecessor’s government.

Khan’s government has also faced criticism in its 3.5 years in office, including when Riaz Fatyana, an MP from his party, urged people to consume less sugar and eat only one flatbread with every meal, rather than more due to a lack of sugar. and wheat at that time. In Pakistan, most people eat roti, a flatbread similar to Indian naan.

Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, fell to a record low in trading against the US dollar on Wednesday. The rupee fell to 206 against the US dollar, according to the central bank.

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Also on Wednesday, Esther Perez Ruiz, IMF Resident Representative in Pakistan, denied local media reports that the global lender had asked Pakistan to review CPEC-related energy deals before making large payments to Beijing. “These claims are simply not true. Rather, the IMF is supporting the government’s multifaceted strategy to restore the viability of the energy sector, which shares the burden of restoring viability among all stakeholders — the government, producers and consumers,” Ruiz said in a statement.