WHETHER it is an economist, a politician or a banker running the financial affairs of the government, the budget recipe remains the same; taxing the already taxed, and protecting the holy cows. The latest budget proposals are no different on this count. While there were tall claims about expanding the tax net to enhance the tax base, the heavily taxed segments, primarily the salaried class, have yet once again been slapped with a huge burden of additional direct taxes and a plethora of indirect taxes.

Ironically, the powerful agriculturalists and the retailers have yet once again been spared of sharing the tax burden even in these difficult times. The government itself has not committed to any measures on its part to curtail its expenditure to plug the revenue shortfall even in the ‘unprecedented’ economic situation that we have been seeing for the last many years now.

While the government employees, many of them corrupt and inefficient, have been rewarded with a 22-25 per cent salary increase, private-sector employees have been left to fend for themselves in the face of a serious erosion of their purchasing power through additional taxes.

Besides bringing the untaxed segments into the net, the government should have also announced ‘difficult’ decisions for itself and its many ministries. That would have demonstrated some level of sincerity towards reviving the country’s economy. Not a single such measure has been taken. That, for sure, is the hardest part to put up with.

The government should have imposed a ban on the purchase of official government vehicles until the improvement of the economic situation. No parliamentarian or government official should have been allowed more than one official car at a time. All expensive, imported luxury vehicles and protocol vehicles in the use of government officials should have been withdrawn and auctioned. Moreover, lavish expenditure on fuel in official government vehicles should have been rationalised. Economy class air travel should have been made mandatory for all local and overseas trips of government functionaries. But none has been done.

It is really unfortunate that the taxed segments and the common man are being made the scapegoat. On the other hand, politicians across the political deivide are just not willing to make economic sacrifices themselves. Unfortunately, the situation leaves the young with little hope for the future. That being so, it is no wonder that most of them are feeling forced to look for greener pastures abroad.

Aamir Malik
Karachi

Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2024

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