Subsidies and Support: A Balancing Act for Inflation Control in Pakistan


In the intricate tapestry of economic governance, controlling inflation without hindering growth is akin to walking a tightrope. This challenge is particularly pronounced in developing economies like Pakistan, where inflation not only threatens the economic stability but also poses significant risks to social harmony. Amidst such challenges, subsidies and support mechanisms emerge as critical tools in the arsenal of policymakers. 

Employed judiciously, these instruments can offer a lifeline to vulnerable populations, helping cushion the blow of rising prices. This blog endeavors to dissect the multifaceted role of subsidies and support in managing inflation in Pakistan, scrutinizing their impacts, the hurdles they present, and the strategic path forward.

The Intricacies of Inflation in Pakistan

Pakistan’s economy, like many others, is periodically buffeted by the winds of inflation, driven by a confluence of internal and external factors. From surges in global commodity prices affecting local markets to domestic currency fluctuations increasing import costs, the triggers of inflation are manifold. 

These triggers set off a domino effect, pushing up prices of essentials, thereby straining the average household’s budget and fueling discontent. Faced with these challenges, the Pakistani government is compelled to intervene, aiming to stabilize prices without stifling the economic dynamism that is crucial for the country’s development.

The Strategic Employment of Subsidies and Support

In the economic toolkit available to Pakistani policymakers, subsidies and targeted support programs stand out for their direct impact on the populace. Subsidies, by making essential goods more affordable, act as a buffer against the immediate effects of inflation. For instance, subsidizing fuel can help moderate the cost of transport, indirectly affecting the price of goods across the board. Similarly, subsidies on utilities like electricity and gas alleviate the financial burden on both households and industries, contributing to economic stability and social welfare.


Concurrently, support mechanisms such as cash transfer programs target the economically disadvantaged segments, ensuring that the most vulnerable are shielded from the harshest impacts of inflation. These programs, exemplified by the Ehsaas Emergency Cash initiative, represent an attempt to provide a safety net for those at the lowest rung of the economic ladder, bolstering consumption among the neediest and fostering social cohesion in times of economic stress.

The Underlying Challenges and Critiques

While subsidies and support mechanisms are potent tools for inflation control, their deployment is fraught with challenges. A significant critique is the fiscal strain these measures impose on the national exchequer. Subsidies, especially when applied indiscriminately, can lead to ballooning fiscal deficits, diverting scarce resources from other vital sectors such as health and education. Furthermore, poorly targeted subsidies risk benefiting those outside the intended vulnerable groups, leading to inefficiencies and inequities in resource distribution. 

Another concern is the potential for creating market distortions and dependency. By artificially lowering the cost of goods, subsidies may discourage productivity improvements and competitiveness, while long-term reliance on government support can hinder the development of a robust, self-reliant economy.

Forging a Path Forward: Precision and Strategy

Navigating the subsidy-support conundrum necessitates a blend of precision in targeting and strategic foresight. The evolution towards more precisely targeted subsidies can ensure that the benefits are confined to the intended recipients, thereby maximizing the impact while containing fiscal costs. This approach demands a robust data infrastructure capable of identifying and reaching the most vulnerable populations effectively.

Moreover, a phased approach to scaling back subsidies, particularly in sectors prone to inefficiencies, can facilitate a smoother transition to market-driven pricing mechanisms, minimizing shock to consumers and industries. This must be complemented by a broad spectrum of policies aimed at tackling the root causes of inflation, such as enhancing agricultural productivity, stabilizing the currency, and investing in infrastructure to improve supply chain efficiencies.

Continuous monitoring and evaluation mechanisms are crucial to adapt and fine-tune subsidy and support programs, ensuring they remain responsive to the evolving economic landscape and the needs of the population.


The journey towards achieving a balanced approach to inflation control in Pakistan, through the judicious use of subsidies and support mechanisms, is complex and multifaceted. It demands a strategic vision that aligns short-term relief measures with long-term economic stability and growth objectives. By carefully calibrating these interventions and embedding them within a comprehensive economic policy framework, Pakistan can aim to not only manage inflation but also pave the way for sustainable economic development and social prosperity.

This article is written by Radma Nouman. Radma is a research analyst at the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies (IIPS).

Share this post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

IMARAT Institute of Policy Studies

Interested in knowing more about us?

Sign up for our newsletter