Sunday, March 04, 2007

Why The World Is Going To End Soon

A new restaurant in Karachi charges Rs. 500 for burgers and around Rs. 1000 for steaks. What the fuck is going on? When the hell did going out for a decent meal become this ridiculously expensive enterprise? The "well, a thousand rupees is less than $20 and that's how much you'd pay for a steak abroad, so why are you complaining" defense really doesn't work. For one thing, there's a term called purchasing power parity (a 300ml bottle of coke costs around Rs. 15 which works out to about 25 cents. I guarantee you nowhere in the United States can you get a coke for 25 cents). For another, people abroad generally earn in proportion to prices. For example, let's say the average salary in the U.S. is $40,000 a year. That works out to 2000 steaks a year. Are you telling me that the average person in Pakistan earns Rs. 2 million (2000 steaks multiplied by Rs. 1000) a year? No, they do not.

For the record, I should say I'm no "the workers have nothing to lose but their chains" Marxist. I think it's completely fine that some forms of recreation cannot be afforded by everyone; that's the way it exists all over the world, in every society. The problem, however, with Pakistan today is that most forms of recreation are beyond the reach of the "common man". Even simple, everyday pleasures like going to the beach (which should be completely free) now require a token payment. There's just very few affordable, enjoyable activities for middle class people in Pakistan today. And this government, bless its heart, is doing all it can to make sure the wall between the rich and the poor gets higher and higher. Their message to stockbrokers, industrialists, cartel managers and real estaters is: Come join the party! Their message to everyone else is: Don't come to our beaches. Don't eat at our restaurants. Don't even try to make a living because we're going to build resorts and golf courses where you and your families have been fishing for hundreds of years. Just do us all a favour and go fuck yourself.

2 comments:

Adeel said...

While I agree with your second paragraph and get equally frustrated by the 'pricing out' of our middle and lower class i'm not too convinced by the argument in the 1st para.

I think the key is that Rs. 1000 is being charged for a high end, quality restaurant steak, not an average run-of-the-mill one. Using $20 as a US price then is disingenuous. A quality steak at a fancy place in the US is more likely to be $60. To maintain the 2000 steak consumption ratio suddenly in the US you need an income of 120,000 to consume 2000 steaks at 50 bucks a pop. Now it's out of the average consumers price band and available to just high earners. Admittedly the exclusivity is not quite as extreme as in Pakistan but the point remains...the US basis for comparison was a bit too unfavorably skewed.

On the positive side PPP seems to work as it should for MaccyD's with a Big Mac meal in London costing £3.60, (or Rs. 420 at current exchange rates) but the actual meal in Pak costing substantiall less (220 last I remember but that was a while back).

Ahsan said...

fair enough.