Pessimism grows in Pakistanis amid deteriorating economic performance and living conditions

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Pakistani people are coming under the grip of pessimism amidst a worsening financial crisis and deterioration of living standards. In what could be called a serious level of gloominess and hopelessness, only one in 10 Pakistanis believes the country is moving in the right direction. It was revealed in the survey carried out by the Pakistan chapter of Ipsos, a global market research and public opinion specialist- based in Paris.

The survey also showed that six out of 10 people in Pakistan called the country’s economic condition ‘weak’. “Instead of progressing, the country has regressed over this period, losing five years of organic growth and development. Economic challenges persist, leading to widespread discomfort among the population regarding daily purchases and future investments,” reads the survey.

People's confidence in the transparency and credibility of the recently held general elections in Pakistan was very low. According to a global survey research firm, Gallup, over two-thirds of Pakistani citizens said they did not have faith in the integrity of their electoral process and federal government.

There has been anger over the instability the country has been facing, which can deter Foreign Direct Investment and, in turn, aggravate the financial crisis, said the authors of survey research. A majority of people in Pakistan are reeling under the pressure of about 30 percent inflation and other crumbling macroeconomic indices. The frustration has become quite evident in the recent past.

Another Gallup survey showed that over 50 percent of Pakistani people said that their household financial condition had worsened. Pakistan’s currency was the worst performer across Asia in 2023, even as its unsustainable debt has pushed the country on the verge of bankruptcy. All this led 70 percent of Pakistanis to think that the local economy had worsened while their standard of living would continue to deteriorate.

The World Bank has expressed concerns over Pakistan's falling living standards, as the share of citizens living in poverty has touched about 40 percent. “Pakistan’s economic model is no longer reducing poverty, and the living standards have fallen behind peer countries,” said Tobias Haque, a lead economist at the World Bank.

In a recent report, the World Bank expressed pessimism about Pakistan’s economy. “In the absence of a credible and ambitious economic reform agenda, uncertainty is expected to linger, affecting confidence and growth. Economic activity is therefore expected to remain subdued,” it said.

There is little hope for a quick economic recovery as Pakistan is facing a slowdown in major areas such as industry, agriculture, real estate, and exports. Higher inflation has added insult to injury. It has impacted the daily lives of a majority of Pakistanis as essential commodities like wheat and vegetables have become highly unaffordable. Safiya Bibi, a mother of four, said it was impossible to run the house with rising prices. “We feel there is no government in this country," she said.

People in Pakistan have lost confidence in the government, said Dr Ali Sajjad, assistant professor at Lahore-based Chaudhary Abdul Rehman Business School. “Due to the economic hardships the Pakistani people have experienced, there is a great deal of unhappiness and frustration, which has taken many different forms, including protests, strikes, riots, and violence,” he said.

The government, too, acknowledges people's frustration over their deteriorating financial situation. “The impact of such high inflation is far-reaching and multifaceted. It erodes the purchasing power of consumers, effectively reducing their standard of living. With food prices rising rapidly, low-income households are hit the hardest as their daily essentials become less affordable,” said Ali Kemal, economic policy advisor at the SDG Support Unit at the Ministry of Planning Development and Special Initiatives.

Youth in Pakistan are feeling helpless, which has led them to leave the country for unemployment opportunities abroad. They are frustrated and yet cannot express their frustration, said Abdul Rahman, a researcher at
Pakistan Institute of Development Economics. “The consequences of the young generation’s helplessness are severe, and brain drain is one of them. This is the result of frustration that is suffocating the future of Pakistan,” he said.

While Pakistan elected a new government after a bout of political instability, people continued to appear pessimistic about an economic turnaround thanks to a lack of confidence in the current leadership. “These politicians only seem interested in securing power for themselves. We need leaders who genuinely think about the country's future, not just their own political survival," said one Pakistani citizen.

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