Defending undefendable


THE Federal Cabinet meeting on Tuesday took up for discussion the decision of the Government to waive off Rs 208 billion in taxes to wealthy industrialists and influential people, which is being dubbed by the Opposition as a sort of tax NRO. Prime Minister Imran Khan directed the Ministers concerned to explain it to the people why the taxes were written off so that misconception is removed.
Irrespective of sincerity of purpose of the decision-makers in this regard, the fact remains that a hefty amount of tax money was written off in favour of well-connected people. The PTI Government has been championing the cause of transparency and accountability but the way the national exchequer was deprived of this huge amount leaves many question marks on the claim. What was justification of writing off the money that was collected by some industries from the end consumer but did not deposit it with the Government treasury for years? This was not their earning and they had no justification to keep the money with them and finally get a waiver. No doubt, the Ordinance has a positive aspect as well – it seeks reduction of GIDC rates by up to 75%, which would help bring down prices for gas and fertilizer for end-consumers. But this arrangement is for future and there was no justification to dole out the already collected taxes to the private sector entities. The waiver to a few is also a wrong message to all those who have been paying the GIDC honestly and regularly (instead of knocking the door of courts as was done by beneficiaries of waiver). Therefore, instead of making attempts to justify the ordinance, the right course would be to amend the Ordinance and recover all dues from all sectors and industries without any discrimination. Otherwise too, the Ordinance is set to be knocked down by the Opposition in the Senate, where it holds comfortable majority.