As elections draw near, every political party, including those that have held power, is in campaign mode, promising the moon to the masses. All stakeholders, including politicians and the establishment, are aware that fiscal space with sufficient revenue from direct taxation is crucial to providing relief by waiving indirect taxes on electricity bills, essential items, subsidised education, and healthcare. The suffering of the poor, who bear the burden of indirect taxation, cannot be blamed on the IMF.
For decades, those in power facilitated tax relief for big landlords, the real estate sector, tobacco, retail and wholesale traders, etc. Relief for the poor can only be possible if those in power are willing to increase taxes on these sectors, which have enjoyed tax privileges for decades. A mere 2% increase in tax on these sectors could offset the revenue shortfall from indirect taxation and narrow the widening budget deficit.
Curbing smuggling of essential items like sugar, wheat, fertilisers, and foreign exchange across our western borders would provide ample stocks to meet demand and control price escalation. Excess produce should be exported to earn foreign exchange or engage in barter trade. It is time for our nation to prioritise the welfare of its citizens.
Every government, be it PPP, PMLN, PTI, PMLQ, or Musharraf’s regime, has been involved in facilitating irregularities by these cartels. The IMF’s inquiry revolves around how the federal government plans to compensate for the reduction in indirect taxes on basic essentials. Mere rhetoric about providing relief is nothing but a deception of the people.
MALIK TARIQ ALI,