Macro Bites

Macro Bite # 75

2 min read
The PTI-led Government of Punjab is rolling out a universal health insurance program that could be a game-changer for millions of Pakistanis. Families enrolled in the Naya Pakistan Sehat Card scheme will be able to get free treatment of up to PKR 1 million annually, a big step in a country where borrowing for health expenses is a major cause of household debt. The program will first launch in Lahore in January, then expand to six other divisions, before eventually being extended to all citizens in the country’s most populous province.
While the credit for this scheme should go to PTI, in the bigger picture, this is also an example of a democratic dividend. People often question what democracy has achieved in Pakistan, but at its best, it can encourage healthy competition to provide the best possible services to citizens. This scheme was first launched by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa under PTI leadership in 2015. Its popularity helped them win the KP provincial elections in 2018 with an even bigger majority, giving the party an incentive to expand the program to Punjab after it formed the provincial government there a few years ago.
This is not an isolated example. PPP’s Benazir Income Support Program, launched a decade ago, was so successful that the current government has expanded it further under its Ehsaan Program. Similarly, PML-N’s much-maligned metro buses eventually ended up inspiring PTI to build mass transit in Peshawar and elsewhere.

It is not a coincidence that these developments are occurring in tandem with Pakistan holding uninterrupted back-to-back elections for the first time in its history. Maybe democracy works?

WEEKLY DATA WATCH

KSE-100 rose marginally this week, due to the success of the OIC summit in the country. PKR depreciated slightly this week, amid news of a growing current account deficit. Local gold prices rose this week.

The annual change in Sensitive Price Index rose to 19.83% vs. 19.49% last week. The poorest of the country (Q1) were disproportionately affected with a change of 21.92% vs. 19.83% for Q5. On a weekly basis, prices rose for all quintiles by 0.40%.

Increase in prices of LPG (+5.03%), Eggs (+2.95%) and Tomatoes (+7.28%) contributed to weekly inflation. A fall in the price of Potatoes (-5.26%), Chilies Powder (-4.16%) and Wheat (-0.12%) helped moderate inflation this week.

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What Else We’re Reading (Local)

  • The gas shortage is hitting consumers and industries hard. The worst part is that everyone could see it coming. (Profit)
  • Pakistan loves imitating Dubai. What if we decided to copy their approach towards providing support to start-ups? (Business Recorder)

What Else We’re Reading (International)

  • The Turkish Lira has posted its biggest increase in value in nearly 40 years. Is the recovery sustainable or a temporary illusion? (Bloomberg)
  • Could seaweed-eating Scottish sheep provide a solution to reducing methane emissions from global livestock? (FT)

Asad Pabani

Journalist, researcher and documentary filmmaker. Prior works featured in Dawn, Soch Videos and Pioneers Post.

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