THE poverty statistics that the Planning Commission recently came out with weren't too heartening. Without going into the methodologies that went into the estimation, which were recently reevaluated by the Commission, the poor, to put it simply, are getting poorer. There is increasing food insecurity in the country and though we might not face an outright famine, undernourishment is very rife. Bringing up food first when discussing poverty is not the wrong thing to do. Many governments, after all, define poverty in terms of daily caloric intake. The availability of food, therefore, frames, as it should, definitions of poverty. The PML(Q) government mishandled the food situation. It kept on relying on the argument that there is an international food crisis underway. The PPP, then in opposition, did not agree with this explaining away of the issue. A political lifetime later, it is the PPP that is harping on the same tune. The argument is not incorrect but it was used by the PML(Q) and is being used by the PPP, more than it should. Granted, there is a crisis but a mismanagement of the agricultural goods market is something that is very much under the government's control. To give the current government its due, however, it is better at managing the said markets. Yet another vindication of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen's theory about how the general food equation in a country is related to the extent to which it practices democracy. The problem with food inflation is that it hits the poor the hardest. The lower a family is on the economic ladder, the greater a proportion of its budget will it spend on food. The greater the proportion for food, the lesser the fiscal space for other things, like education and health. The lesser the investment on these, specially the former, the lesser the chance of moving up on the scale. A vicious cycle, really. One that needs to be broken out of.