PAKISTAN may not be the only country where the powerful and corrupt can have their way. But it is certainly one of the few nations where those with influence can get away with their crime, however horrendous it may be. Law enforcers happily do their bidding, and the laws can easily be bent to suit their interests. Only recently, the government had tabled the controversial tax amnesty law in the National Assembly to help tax thieves legalise their illegal wealth. The widespread opposition to the scheme was ignored. Now the Federal Board of Revenue has prepared yet another scheme to help the powerful legalise their smuggled vehicles. A proposal in this regard has already been put on the table of the finance minister who, in his first budget speech, had vowed not to spare the influential tax dodgers and thieves.
Chances are that the FBR’s new project will be implemented because it has the backing of a lobby that is supported by the high and mighty and the minister is as yet not ready to take it on. Officially, about 100,000 smuggled vehicles are plying on the roads. By the time the scheme is implemented, the number of smuggled vehicles would have grown significantly. Why does the FBR come up with such ‘enterprising’ ideas every now and then when these don’t help it raise tax revenues and, instead, send the wrong signal to honest taxpayers? Of course, some powerful groups and lobbies, with vested interests, are behind such schemes. But these are also used to hide the inefficiency and corruption of tax collectors without whose connivance it is difficult, even if not impossible, to cheat the government of tax revenues. Billions of rupees of taxpayers’ money spent on tax administration reforms over the years have simply failed to change the culture at FBR or to make tax officials efficient and honest. Amnesty schemes won’t help the board cover its lapses for too long. It will have to mend its ways and start enforcing the law indiscriminately sooner or later if the economy has to be turned around.