The government had reassured that it would not further raise prices after the first few series of inflation in the prices of oil, gas and petroleum. Yet it looks like it will not live up to that promise. Despite a reduction in international crude price, the government is likely to approve a substantial increase in the prices of major petroleum products for the month of June to make up for the lost revenue due to currency devaluation. After pressure from the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra), which has been pushing for raising prices for months, the government may approve a Rs8.99 per litre increase in the price of high-speed diesel, Rs8.53 per litre in petrol, Rs1.69 per litre in kerosene and Rs1.68 per litre for the price of light diesel oil.

Taxes are said to be one of the few certainties of life, yet that does not mean the government should abuse that privilege. Since the start of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)’s government, it has imposed and kept increasing the sales tax on many crucial items, leading to hikes in their prices. Considering the abysmal state of the economy and the government’s revenue, we understood that the rise in those prices was necessary, even though the upsurge of prices of indispensable commodities like electricity, gas and oil greatly harms the daily lives of the middle and lower classes.

Yet those conditions should only be adopted if the economy is suffocated and deeply in need of revenue. The market was ought to have stabilised after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout. Even with currency devaluation, it seems deeply unfair that Pakistani consumers will suffer the highest ever petroleum prices when the international crude market is at only $67 per barrel. One cannot help comparing to the situation in 2008, when the barrel was at the alarming price of $147, yet the petroleum market in Pakistan still survived with relatively low retail prices.

Currency devaluation can be an unfortunate phenomenon for the economy- yet the solution to countering it does not entail increasing prices at every gap. While PTI’s long-term economic plan is appreciated, it needs to make decisions taking into consideration the middle and lower classes of the country as well, who will be deeply affected by such price hikes. The federal government itself, realising the popularity cost of inflation, has been reluctant to cause further hikes. Let us see if it can withstand Ogra’s pressure.