Every passing day of Ramadan, newspapers and TV channels are full of shameful images of fasting people standing in long lines in scorching heat in front of stores to purchase atta and sugar at subsidised rates because they cannot afford these essential items at normal market rates which have gone sky high due to machination of hoarders and profiteers in connivance with corrupt officials and politicians. The images of outstretched hands of old men and women waiting for long painful hours to grab a measly bag of atta or sugar for their iftar, paint a horrible scene of helplessness and deprivation. The storm of price escalation had started blowing about a week before the advent of Ramadan but the provincial and federal governments, despite tall claims couldn't do anything to stop it. The holy month of Ramadan has become synonymous with greed for traders who have no qualms of conscious or fear of God. Ramadan is a month of rehmat but in Pakistan it has become a month of zehmat for the poor. According to market surveys the prices of groceries and meat have gone up from 35 to 50 percent. The rich who can pay for their food celebrate the month of Ramadan as a festival of gluttony while the poor can hardly have only one meal at iftar. According to IMF, which provides Pakistan with loans and also keeps a vigilant eye on its investment on periodic basis. In a recent review, IMF has said the medium-term economic outlook for Pakistan is fragile and the country faces significant risks. Pakistan agreed in November to an IMF emergency loan package of USD 7.6 billion to avert a balance of payments crisis and shore up reserves. Last month, the fund increased the loan to of USD 11.3 billion, and also released a third tranche of 1.2 billion. According to IMF, slower global recovery, higher commodity prices, and political instability, as well as existing constraints on energy and infrastructure pose significant risks to the outlook. The main macroeconomic indicators showed an improvement, but the economy was still vulnerable to shocks. Inflation had declined from a record high in August last year but the pace of the decline, especially in the latter part of the 2008/09 fiscal year, which ended on June 30, had been slower than expected. Imports had contracted sharply and overseas workers' remittances had continued to grow which had helped the current account deficit improve. However, the financial account remained weak as net foreign flows declined by nearly USD 3 billion in the 2008/09 fiscal year compared with the previous year. GDP growth in the 2009/10 fiscal year is projected at 3 percent from an earlier 4 percent. The IMF said Pakistan's performance to the end of June, according to preliminary data, suggested that targets set for the State Bank had been met, but the fiscal deficit had exceeded a ceiling by 0.9 percent of GDP. The IMF said it opposed a cut in interest rates until inflation fell significantly. Besides IMF, the United States is providing direct economic assistance to Pakistan to prevent extremists from exploiting peoples' deprivation. Providing such assistance to Pakistan is part of America's new approach to combating extremists. The Obama Administration is also replacing the old theory of Global War on Terror with a new strategy focused narrowly on Al-Qaeda. According to an ADB report, economic growth in Pakistan is expected to be moderate, to 6.3 percent, in the 2007-08 and may slightly pick up, to 6.5 percent in 2008-09. The forecast is lower than the average 7 percent growth rate during the recent years. The forecast for the current and next fiscal years are also lower than Pakistan's own projections of maintaining growth trajectory of around 7 percent as stipulated in the five-year (2005-10) programme. In its recent report, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) also stated that the growth rate could be around 6 to 6.5 percent in the current fiscal year. The report says: "Political uncertainty and the security environment and formation of the government may curtail investment and drag down economic performance. Revenue shortfalls produced by slowing economic activity and expenditure overruns may limit fiscal space and reduce public investment. This may affect private investment and growth." The ADB has suggested that Pakistan has to build greater capacity to finance its investment needs with internal resources i.e. savings. Pakistan will also have to improve competitiveness of exports, attract FDI in manufacturing industries and expand tax base. The present economic scenario projected by IMF and ADB, is very alarming. The government needs to consider carefully the recommendation of these world bodies and implement them with sincerity and vigour. One can only says that our government must avoid extravagance in government expenses wherever possible and launch an austerity programme throughout the country according to the teachings of the Holy Quran and the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Khulafa-e-Rashideen. This is the only way out to save the country from total collapse. The writer is former director news, PTV E-mail: burhanhasan@hotmail.com