Pakistanis asked to drink less tea amid economic crisis

The country’s Minister of Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, told reporters on Tuesday that Pakistanis may reduce their tea consumption by “one or two cups” per day as the import is putting additional financial pressure on the government.

“The tea we import is imported on loan,” Iqbal said. Businesses should also be closed first to save electricity.

The 220 million South Asian country is the world’s largest tea importer, with purchases worth more than $640 million in 2020. Observatory of Economic Complexity,

Pakistan has been facing serious economic challenges for months, leading to a rise in the prices of food, gas and oil.

Meanwhile, its foreign exchange reserves are declining sharply. According to Reuters, the holdings of the central bank fell from $16.3 billion at the end of February to more than $10 billion in May – a drop of more than $6 billion and enough to cover the cost of two months of its imports.

Many in Pakistan took to social media to ridicule Iqbal’s plea, saying that cutting tea consumption will do nothing to ease the country’s economic woes.

Pakistan’s economic crisis was at the center of a political showdown between Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and his predecessors Imran Khan earlier this year, which led to Khan’s ouster in April.

Sharif accused Khan of economic mismanagement and mishandling of the country’s foreign policy, which led to Khan’s removal in a no-confidence vote.

Keeping pace with the growing economic crisis has been a challenge for Sharif’s government.

Last month, Pakistan banned the import of non-essential and luxury items to “control rising inflation, stabilize foreign exchange reserves, strengthen the economy and reduce the country’s dependence on imports”, the information minister said. Maryam Aurangzeb said in a press conference on 19 May.

Sharif had said at the time that the decision would “save the country’s valuable foreign exchange” and that Pakistan would have to “penance”.

In late May, the government removed a cap on fuel prices – a prerequisite for a long-stagnant bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to go ahead.

Last week, the government unveiled a new $47 billion budget for 2022-23 to persuade the IMF to renegotiate the $6 billion bailout deal. In 2019 both sides agreed,