ISLAMABAD ( Associated Press) – A minister in Pakistan’s newly-elected government faced criticism on Wednesday after he asked the country to drink less tea to help it save on imports amid a deepening economic crisis.
Pakistan is one of the world’s top tea importers, a hugely popular drink among both rich and poor in this country of 220 million people. The government has to spend about $600 million annually from the central bank’s hard currency reserves to import tea.
On an average, a Pakistani is believed to drink at least three cups of tea a day, the country’s favorite caffeinated beverage.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who took office in April after Imran Khan was ousted in a no-confidence motion in parliament, has flouted conditions set by the International Monetary Fund in an effort to revive the ailing economy and revive a $6 billion bailout package. resolved to complete. ,
Still, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal’s appeal to drink less tea surprised many.
“I appeal to people to drink one or two cups of tea a day as we borrow money for tea, which is imported,” Iqbal told a press conference on Tuesday.
Some have openly advised Iqbal to resign on social media.
“Yesterday Ahsan Iqbal asked us to drink less tea and tomorrow he may say eat less. Is this a solution?” asked Dil Sher, who runs a roadside tea stall on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The government has so far raised the prices of fuel, natural gas and electricity by up to 45%, leading to a hike in food prices. Last week, Sharif’s cabinet presented its first budget in parliament for approval, levying higher taxes on the wealthy and vowing to remove subsidies on energy and fuel as demanded by the IMF.
Hourly power cuts across Pakistan have also made Sharif’s coalition government unpopular.
Now in opposition, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party also claimed on Twitter that Sharif’s government had damaged the economy barely two months after taking office. Sharif, however, says he is paying the price for the mismanagement of his previous government.
During his 3 years in power, Khan’s government also faced criticism, with one of his party’s legislators, Riyaz Fatyana, urging people to use less sugar amid the sugar shortage, and to use just one instead of every meal. Appealed to eat flatbread. And wheat at that time. In Pakistan, most people consume roti similar to naan in India.
Pakistan’s currency rupee fell to a record low against the US dollar on Wednesday. According to the central bank, the rupee slipped to 206 against the US dollar.