Roundup: Pakistanis gear up for Eid al-Fitr among inflation woes

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ISLAMABAD, June 3 (Xinhua) -- Ajmal Khan has been running a cloth shop in a busy market in Islamabad's G-9 Markaz since years. He, like many other cloth sellers in the market, eagerly awaits Eid al-Fitr during which sales hit record high every year.

This year Eid al-Fitr is expected to fall on June 5, and a few days prior to the festival, the number of buyers increased in the market like every year, however, Khan has observed that their choice of clothes changed this year as they are preferring to buy cheap-quality and low-priced products, apparently due to a decrease in purchasing power.

Eid al-Fitr, locally known as "sweet Eid" comes after the fasting month of Ramadan and Muslims across the globe including Pakistanis celebrate it with religious fervor. Traditionally, Pakistani men, women and kids buy new clothes, shoes and accessories to celebrate Eid, which is one of the two major religious festivals in the country.

Talking to Xinhua, Faisal Shaji, head of Research, Standard Capital Securities, a brokerage house in Karachi, said that last year Eid al-Fitr market witnessed around 90 billion rupees (6.12 billion U.S. dollars) to 1 trillion rupees (6.81 billion U.S. dollars), but according to recent market indicators, some 70-80 billion rupees (4.76-5.44 billion U.S. dollars) are likely to be spent on the Eid this year.

"Inflation is likely to further rise in the coming months, but due to recent wave of inflation, people are hesitant to spend money on the festival, though the Eid is falling in the first week of June, and salaried class is likely to spend beyond their budget limits."

According to the latest available statistics released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) in April this year, Inflation in April was recorded at level of 8.8 percent on year-on-year basis as compared to 3.7 percent during corresponding month of last year. The average inflation reached 7 percent in July-April fiscal year 2019, compared to 3.8 percent in the same period last year.

The central bank recently hiked its key interest rate to 12.25 percent with a rise in its policy rate by 150 basis points, warning further inflation in the forthcoming fiscal year 2020.

"Inflation is expected to be in the range of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent in the current financial year and it is anticipated to be considerably higher in fiscal year 2020. The inflation outlook is subject to a number of upside risks from an expected rationalization of taxes in the upcoming budget, potential adjustments in electricity and gas tariffs, and volatility in international oil prices," the SBP said in a recent statement.

The increasing inflation has marred the festivities of the Eid. Though the usual Eid crowd was witnessed in the markets, but customers were seen complaining about rise in prices.

Talking to Xinhua, Nadeem Iqbal, a clerk in a government department, said that last year he could buy good food, clothes for the whole family, and gifts for his relatives on the Eid, but this year he could only buy clothes for his kids while he and his wife will wear old clothes to celebrate the Eid.

Iqbal believed that with the overall inflation in the country the vendors got an excuse to increase prices of clothes and shoes before the Eid. Like many other government employees, he hoped that the government would adjust their salaries in the budget of the forthcoming fiscal year according to inflation rate.

Famous local clothing brands, however, launched a whole new range of Eid collection on their stores with many items getting sold only a day after their online launch.

Talking about the shopping trend in the Eid, Mubashir Naeem, deputy manager of famous local lifestyle brand Nishat Linen, claimed that their Eid sales did not get much influenced by the inflation and people are thronging to their outlets across the country to get attires for the Eid.

"Our normal range is around 3,000-5,000 rupees (20-34 U.S. dollars) whereas the luxury range starts from 15,000 rupees (102 U.S. dollars). We witnessed normal sales despite inflation, which is an indicator that inflation could not bar people to buy new clothes on the festival. Eid al-Fitr happens only once in a year and people are excited to get back to normal life after a month of fasting so they try to celebrate it even by exceeding their budget."

Prime Minister Imran Khan also said that his government is striving hard to control inflation, but it will take time and till then people need to stay strong. Enditem

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