A senior minister in Pakistan has urged people to reduce tea consumption to buoy the economy amidst severe crisis.
The country’s Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal, told reporters on 14 June that Pakistanis should reduce their tea consumption as imports are putting additional financial pressure on the Government.
“I appeal to the nation to cut down the consumption of tea by one to two cups because we import tea on loan,” Iqbal said, according to Pakistani media.
Pakistan is the world’s largest importer of tea, buying in more than $600 million (£495 million) worth last year.
Iqbal further suggested that traders could close their tea stalls earlier in the evening to save on electricity.
The unusual request has gone viral on social media and outraged many Pakistanis. The public has heavily criticised the ministers’ views in such distressed times, arguing that the country’s serious financial problems can hardly be solved just by cutting down on tea.
Pakistan has been facing severe economic challenges for months, leading to an increase in the prices of food, gas, and oil. Just recently, the Federal Government has banned the import of around 41 luxury items for two months to prevent financial default.
Pakistani foreign exchange reserves are also crippling downward; Reuters reported that funds held by the Central Bank fell from $16.3 billion (£13.5 billion) at the end of February to just above $10 billion (£8.2 billion) in May.
The economic crisis is putting newly-elected Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to test and his re-election seems very unlikely as former Prime Minister Imran Khan has joined skeptics challenging Sharif’s mandate.
In 2019, Commonwealth representatives visited Pakistan to help strengthen the security of online election tools and databases following election-related violence the year prior.