The ‘Aam Aadmi’ in Pakistan struggles with his halal earnings
My name is ‘Aam Aadmi’ (literally a ‘common man’) and I am a 35-year-old with two children. I live in the not-so posh areas of Karachi with a monthly income of Rs50,000 per month. I used to take pride in being a middle-class citizen of Pakistan. My life revolves around the first of every month – supposedly salary day. By the end of the first week of each month, my salary disappears from my account and I go through the ordeal of an 8 to 6 job, which, if you live in Karachi, extends to an 8 to 8 since it takes 1.5 hours to reach home.
I call myself a proud Pakistani and at every debating corner, I have resolved my beliefs to stick to my beloved country and shun the much orgasmic obsession with immigration for a local citizen. Be it obeying the traffic signals, paying parking fees or standing in the queue at the corrupted government departments etc. I have done my duty as a honourable citizen, but has the government of Pakistan done its duty towards its inhabitants?
Not at all.
My interest in the well-being – or lack thereof – of my country compels me to read the newspapers and keep an eye on the government’s affairs despite our turbulent relationships, as a separated spouse would do for the sake of the common factor – children. My children are the children of the state and will either make this country proud or hope for immigration themselves. Albeit, with growing inward-looking policies, coupled with rise of anti-immigration politicking in Europe, I doubt the countries will be welcoming immigrants. Thus, our next generation ought to be the backbone of the country (at least in theory).
Then comes the budget announcement every year, and we see the ‘Aam Aadmi’ being ignored once again.
Measures, such as, increasing duties on mobile phones, increasing taxes on bottled water (that my wife keeps insisting on for our children’s hygiene) just complicate our miserable life even further. In the past, I used to invest in a Rs1,000 committee per month, hoping to get a lump-sum amount for expenditures, but it seems the forced saving will be said good-bye to as well. So called incentives in the form of tax credit on blah blah investment – house loan, mutual funds, health insurance etc – are measures helping people who have a savings buffer, not the ‘Aam Aadmi’ with a deficit hole.
Confessing the truth, we cannot switch on the ACs as our incomes are of a third world country and our electricity costs are higher than developed markets. We save that ‘luxury’ to divert it to exorbitantly absurd level of tuition and school fees. Last month, my son fell sick owing to a viral infection and the treatment at a mediocre private hospital was for Rs8,000. As a halal earning father, I opted not to borrow but to sell my android phone and settle for lower grade to meet the medicinal expenses.
I have defended my country at every point, but isn’t it my governments responsibility to provide quality education and health facilities through the public sector? How long will millions of fathers remain frustrated at themselves? How long will they remain cranky at home for not being able to provide the luxuries they see their rich brothers offering their children?
Does the government even have any plans to steer the budget towards increasing allocation to education and health sectors and limit our financial debt while increasing taxation on the affluent class who drive Audis and Range Rovers? Or will I be left at the mercy of my current boss who keeps telling me,
“If you quit, I have candidates who would be willing to take your job at a lesser salary.”
These things keep me up at night. If the Sharifs, Bhuttos and Khans had answers, then I could save another Rs250/month that I spend on popping a sleeping pill every night to escape from reality.
An eternally struggling,
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.