Many Pakistanis are being forced to travel in risk to reach Europe as a result of the severe economic crisis, increased food shortages, and a lack of jobs.
The sinking of a boat carrying migrants to Europe on Sunday, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of people, many of whom were from Pakistan, has sparked a discussion about the dire economic situation that compels many young people to travel in such peril to seek out better living conditions abroad in the South Asian nation.
At least 64 persons, including roughly 14 children, were killed when the boat collided with rocks and disintegrated in rough waves close to the southern Italian town of Steccato di Cutro.
The boat had been carrying 180–200 people, according to the 80 survivors.
Three individuals, one from Turkey and two from Pakistan, have been detained in Italy in connection with the event.
According to the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, 20 nationals were on the boat, 16 of them made it out alive, but four were still missing.
The Federal Investigation Agency has opened a probe into human trafficking after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif directed officials to gather the facts.
Crippling economic crisis.
The crushing economic situation in Pakistan, according to many Pakistanis and analysts, is a major factor in the country’s high rate of emigration, even among unsafe and illegal ways.
As its foreign exchange reserves have decreased to just $3 billion (€2.8 billion), which is hardly enough for three weeks’ worth of imports, Pakistan’s economy has been in upheaval and urgently requires outside funding.
Millions of people were forced to flee their homes as a result of the devastating floods in 2022, which caused more than $30 billion in damages and economic losses.
According to UN statistics, food costs have skyrocketed and there are now 14.6 million more people who are food insecure than there were five years ago.
According to the World Bank, the flooding could push up to 9 million additional people into poverty.
The Asian Development Bank and IMF estimate that more than one-fifth of Pakistan’s 220 million citizens already live below the country’s official poverty threshold.
The wealth gap is widening, inflation is approaching 30%, and wealthy people are actively avoiding paying taxes.
Industry associations claim that as manufacturing costs rise and exports decline, the textile industry alone has lost roughly 7 million jobs, placing the industry on the verge of collapse.
A Karachi-based economist named Shahida Wizarat claimed that Pakistan’s economic mess was caused by bad policies.
She cited the country’s ongoing trade deficits as the source of the devaluation of the currency, which led to high import costs, a growing debt load, and increased corporate costs.
The widespread issue of tax avoidance and evasion, according to Azra Talat Saeed, economist and founder of the NGO Roots for Equality, has made the government’s debt load worse.
She claimed that in Pakistan, the richest 5% of rural households maintain control over nearly two-thirds of all agricultural land.
She asserted that “these wealthy feudal lords pay no taxes at all, and only the poor are saddled with taxation.”
Seeking IMF support.
This Monday, Pakistan announced that its steadfast ally China had authorised a $700 million credit facility for the heavily indebted nation.
In addition, Islamabad has been negotiating with the IMF to receive a $1 billion loan payment under the $6.5 billion rescue package that was agreed upon in 2019.
The Pakistani government has already implemented a number of measures, including a market-based exchange rate, an increase in fuel and power prices, the removal of subsidies, and increased taxation to raise money to close the fiscal deficit.
According to officials, the lender and Islamabad are still in negotiations regarding debt in the power industry and a prospective increase in the policy rate, which is now at 17%.
The stringent regulations will probably further cool the economy and increase inflation.
According to Saeed, international organisations’ policies can make Pakistan’s crisis worse.
“Our import bill has already increased over the years, and now that the IMF is demanding unfettered imports, Pakistan’s import bill may experience an exponential increase in the future years,” she warned.
Need for job creation
Former finance minister Miftah Ismael predicted that in order to boost the economy and generate jobs, the government would have to start development projects.
He emphasised the necessity of giving Pakistan’s youth work opportunities, saying that the country can save millions more from falling into poverty by developing homes and roads.
Mian Ghulam Shabbir, a 42-year-old labourer from the Punjab province’s Pindi Bhattian district, claimed that Pakistanis were frantically trying to emigrate abroad due to the dearth of employment possibilities in their home nation.
He added that he had himself attempted to move to Italy in 2015 and that they had little chance of an economic resurgence
After working more than 12 hours a day, the workers at this place receive no pay. And they believe that if they carry out the identical tasks in Italy or any other Western nation, they will be able to earn a fortune and support their families, he continued.
Thus, he said, “people would still risk their lives looking for work abroad.
Awami Workers’ Party chairman Abida Choudhary, who is located in Lahore, noted that Pakistan is home to millions of young people without jobs.
Additionally, she claimed that because of the rising food insecurity, a lack of employment opportunities, and rising prices for essentials, people are “trying to migrate illegally to European countries, allowing agents to pack them into containers or shove them onto overcrowded boats, which leads to tragedies like the one in Italy.”