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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Pakistan’s government asks citizens to help the economy by cutting back on tea

Pakistan Tea Drinking
Muhammad Sajjad/AP
/
AP
FILE - A Pakistani boy works at a tea shop in Peshawar, Pakistan, Sunday, June 12, 2022. Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal in Pakistan's newly elected government faced criticism Wednesday, June 15, 2022, following his plea to the nation to drink less tea to help save on imports amid a deepening economic crisis. Pakistan is among the world's top tea importers, a hugely popular drink among both the rich and the poor in this country of 220 million people. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad, File)

Prices are rising all over the world — and on a wide variety of items. Inflation is complicating the finances of many governments. And this week, a minister in a South Asian country is urging citizens to take a form of direct action.

Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Planning and Development is urging his fellow citizens to cut back on drinking tea — for national economic reasons.

Ahsan Iqbal made his appeal at a news conference in Islamabad Tuesday, saying, "I appeal to the nation to reduce tea intake by one or two cups daily because we borrow money for tea imports.”

In fact, no one imports more tea than Pakistan.

The BBC reports the country brought in more than $600 million worth of tea last year.

But Pakistan’s trade imbalance runs at several billion dollars a month, so closing that gap will require more than cutting back on tea.

Last month, Pakistan’s government restricted the import of more than 40 items judged to be luxury goods — ranging from cars and mobile phones to certain clothing and cigarettes.

Still, the Karachi-based Express Tribune reports that move cut the trade imbalance by about $600 million — less than 5% of the country’s imports.

Pakistan had a change of government in April — when Shehbaz Sharif replaced Imran Khan as Prime Minister.

The government is facing a continuing financial crisis and is trying to resume a suspended financial aid package with the International Monetary Fund.

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