FOUR months after the presentation of the national budget for the current financial year, the Government, according to a media report, is poised to present a mini budget to give legal cover to the terms and conditions it agreed to with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The new proposals envisage reduction or withdrawal of tax exemptions including those on mobile phone, stationary and packaged food items, granting powers to the Prime Minister to increase or decrease petroleum development levy, increasing tax collection target from Rs 5,829 billion to Rs 6,100 billion and reducing the development programme by Rs 200 billion.
It was, perhaps, in this backdrop that leader of the opposition in the National Assembly Mian Shahbaz Sharif has predicted ‘a storm of inflation’ by next week, urging all stakeholders to act to safeguard the interests of the people.
It is understood that the finance act amendments bill would be presented before the lower house, affording it an opportunity to discuss all the proposals threadbare highlighting their impact on the life of the people.
There is no denying the fact that withdrawal of tax exemptions would hit the masses hard especially in case of imposition of additional taxes on mobile phones, internet, commonly used stationary and packaged food items.
The proposal runs contrary to the declared policy of the present Government not to add to the burden of the existing tax payers or the common man.
No doubt, the taxes are being added in line with the agreement reached with the IMF but efforts should have been made by them during negotiations to protect the interest of the common man.
Of course, there is a need for increasing the tax collection but this objective should have been realized through taxation of holy cows and tightening noose around the neck of tax evaders.
We have all along been emphasizing in these columns that instead of repeatedly resorting to the same old tactics of tax collection (increasing prices and tax on oil products and hiking tariffs of utilities), the Government should bring those into the tax net who earn millions but are not even filers.
The elected members should also discuss ways and means to get rid of the IMF clutches as experience so far shows the Fund programmes did not help improve the state of economy in any significant way and instead complicated things both for the governments and the masses.