Economist Dr. Aqdas Afzal has said that if the flood water doesn’t dissipate soon, Pakistan will experience a wheat crisis down the line as wheat sowing season is approaching.
Speaking to Waqas Ali during Naya Daur’s TV show ‘Islamabad Buzz’, he said that while he is also worried about the fast-rising inflation, the present government had been trying to stabilize the economy, and had the floods not hit, it was looking like they would have been successful.
However, he said this catastrophe is one that no one can do anything about, and now, all fiscal targets and revenue growth goals have been rendered irrelevant. Now the biggest priority is the relief and rescue of flood victims, as nearly 1,500 people have died thus far.
Afzal said that the biggest epicenter of damage was Sindh, and the government was trying to increase its relief efforts in the region. “The implementation of the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) has been increased from PKR 28,000 to 70,000,” he said, adding, “We are in need of so much money, because we need so much rehabilitation.”
He said there was nowhere for the accumulated flood water to go, and because of this, entire new lakes had been formed. “Wheat sowing season is upon us, and if the water doesn’t go away, the down the line, our country will have an aata crisis as well,” he said, adding, “Now is the time to plan ahead for it, and make sure there is no illegal hoarding of wheat.”
Afzal said that Pakistan should definitely approach the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for renegotiations, as although many countries have pledged support, we do not know how many of the pledges will actually turn into aid. “We no longer enjoy the same geo-strategic position we did in the past,” he noted, and said that we need to generate funds and help our people ourselves as no one else will come to our aid.
He recommended the government to cross subsidize, and forgo electricity bills for the next six months in the most-hit areas if their electricity usage is less than 500 units. Afzal also said that political instability plays a huge role in the stabilisation of the economy. He said that the solution was not immediate elections, because if say the result was not in favor of the PTI, and Imran Khan refuses to accept the results, then where will the country go, he asked. “With how divided our state institutions are right now, the only solution is political stability.”