THERE is a general consensus in society that the budget 2024-25 is anti-people and pro-elite. It is totally unfair and unjust to impose more taxes on the middle and lower-middle classes. The government had assured the people that maximum relief would be provided to them, and that the burden of taxes would be shifted to the privileged class, comprising landlords, retailers and traders. But the government has reneged on its promises.

The ‘sacred cows’ happen to be like the proverbial bulls in a china shop. The new fiscal year has brought with itself unprecedented financial hardships for the downtrodden who have already been finding it extremely hard to make ends meet. Was there no other option for revenue generation and meeting national expenditures and debt servicing than stripping the clothes of the common man, leaving him with no safety valve and protection? Really?

The government has, indeed, turned despotic and cruel by passing such a tax-laden and redundant budget. It shows the ineptness and incompetence of the government and its functionaries that the budget is bereft of any meaningful reform.

Things might have been a little better had the government taken any initiative to cut its own expenditure by bringing down the number of its ministers and the perks and privileges each of them enjoys. There is not even a hint of austerity in the government plan. There is no effort at all to show solidarity with the people in these stressful times.

The tax hike, we have been repeatedly told, was one of the conditions that were put forward by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the country needed to increase its tax-to-GDP ratio. The condition was logical. But did the IMF ask the government to place the entire burden solely on the shoulders of those already in the net?

If anything, the lending body has always stressed on governments in Pakistan to provide relief to the poor, and to tax the rich. This is precisely what governments in Pakistan have never done because of the vested interests of the elite — both social and political. If the government fails to extend maximum relief and financial protection to the poor, there are apprehensions that there would be chaos and large-scale protests against such stringent financial measures. The federal government should realise the repercussions of its harsh measures, and do the needful to avoid any further trouble.

Asma Qasim
Quetta

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2024

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