The Cost of Living: Of Milk and being a Lakh-Patti

Posted on November 2, 2006
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development
Total Views: 37968

Adil Najam

Our educated chattering classes do not consider it sophisticated to talk about milk.

(Photo Credit for this powerful picture: Baba Dody)

They would much rather spend their time pontificating about global geopolitics, the power politics of our would-be-saviors (both those in power and those waiting to come back to power), the intricacies of conspiracy theories about ‘hidden hands’ and not-so-hidden motives, and trying to read the ‘real’ story ‘between lines’ even as they ignore the stark realities of the lines themselves. Of course, for others there is always the option to belch out slogans reeking of pious religosity or self-righteous modernity.

Ultimately, however, you need to think about the price of milk. Because milk is a necessity and slogans are merely a distraction.

I know enough economics to know that while improvements in macro-economic trends matters, they matters much less when the cost of living and making ends meet for the citizenry at large run contrary. We at ATP have been and remain quite concerned about everyday inflationary trends. As we have stressed before, there is something very wrong when the denomination of the highest value banknote (Rs. 5000) is greater than what is considered a decent monthly wage for a middle-class Pakistani! We have also written about just how much it really costs ordinary Pakistanis to get petrol. Now, it turns out that the cost of milk – a daily necessity – is on the rise and moving in the same direction as the cost of petrol.

Many of us tend to think of Pakistan as a place where things are cheaper than in Europe, the US, the Middle East, or elsewhere. I don’t want to go into the math again (see here and here), but this graphic from The Daily Times (3 November, 2006), reminds us yet again that the real cost of living in Pakistan is not just higher than in most other places, for ordinary Pakistanis it is exorbitant.

The text in the graphic reports that most companies have raised the price of their one-litre packs of processed milk, and what used to sell for Rs. 30 is now selling at Rs. 38. Moreover, it reports that the price is likely to increase further.

All of this reminds me of a post Mansoor had recently written in Karachi Metroblog where he posed the question “What exactly can you do with a Million Ruppees?” The answer he came up with was, ‘Not too much!’

A lakh-patti (One Lakh=100,000) is not necessarily rich and depending of how many ‘lakhs’ one has, may even be poor!

The really sad part is that despite all this, most Pakistanis will never know what a Lakh Ruppees look like. And it is we, and not just the ‘authorities’ who are need to accept the blame. For those of you who like to get agitated about things, get agitated about this: The cruelty in society comes not only from the actions of those in power, but from the neglect, the silence, and the inaction of all of us. Indeed, from our willing participation in keeping things as they are.

33 responses to “The Cost of Living: Of Milk and being a Lakh-Patti

  1. CDiamente says:

    I am trying to ascertain how much money is necessary to live in Lahore, Pakistan. I am going to present this information to my church to see if I can interest anyone there to sponsor a Pakistani family.
    What is the cost in US dollars for:
    1 pound of Beef
    1 pound of Lamb
    1 pound of Sugar
    1 Loaf of Bread
    1 dozen Eggs
    1 pound of Cheese
    1 gallon of Milk
    1 head of Lettuce
    1 pound of Tomatoes
    1 pound of Onions
    1 month rent in moderate priced 1 bedroom apartment
    1 month gas/electric rates for same 1 bedroom apartment
    1 doctor’s visit for a child’s vaccinations
    1 doctor’s visit for a child’s dentist cavity filling

    What organization can a family contact to sponsor a Pakistani child to come to the US as a foreign exchange student?

    If anyone can help me I would appreciate it! Thank you in advance for considering my lengthy request.

    Christina D

  2. Samdani says:

    Private primary school teacher… Rs. 1500 per month!!!!!

    What sort of a private school would that be… and how in God’s name can one live on that. Anywhere!

  3. Adil Najam says:

    I thought of making this a new post altogether. And maybe it should be. But at the least I wanted to share this with you and I do earnestly hope people will ponder upon this.

    According to the Sindh Chief Minister, as reported in the Daily Times (7 November, 2006):
    Rs 7,000
    What a government primary school teacher earns a month

    Rs 1,500
    What a private school primary teacher earns a month

    Number of closed schools that need to be reopened

    Number of new schools being opened

    Number of colleges in Sindh

    Rs 2 billion
    Funds given to districts for education

    Now think again, please, about that Rs. 5000 note and the meaning of Lakh Patti!

  4. MQ says:

    Adil’s price chart reminds me of Habib Jalib who once wrote during Ayub Khan’s days:

    SaaTh (60) ropay mun hai aaTa
    Us par bhi hai sunnaaTa
    Gohar, Adam aur Dawood
    Banay haiN Birla aur Tata

  5. Roshan Malik says:

    I would only say that our president claims to be well verse in ‘Musharranomics’

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