EDITORIAL: It’s no surprise that the “massive recovery drive against tax defaulters” has identified the usual suspects – industrial units, factories/mills owners, wholesalers, property dealers and traders – as major evaders.
That’s because we’ve come this far before; many times. It is, therefore, pertinent to mention that the new list has left out retailers, another notorious bunch when it comes to taxes.
It’s the next part of this process that will put the government’s tall claims to test. Nobody’s laughed away the caretaker setup’s bravado just yet because its non-political nature might give it the kind of leverage that is simply not available to elected administrations.
It’s these evaders’ political connections that allow them to thrive outside the tax net, after all, and they purchase this privilege by lubricating political parties’ election campaigns. The caretakers, as they are called, have no such ambitions or compulsions, therefore it would be easier for them to direct the long arms of the law towards tax cheats that have long avoided them.
So far these optics, and the fact that people have no real choice, have calmed down street unrest. But for how long? The government is clearly not able to provide any relief, and the bills will only inflate further with each passing month. Law-abiding taxpayers are particularly upset that they must pay extra to make up for the theft of other, more powerful and better connected people.
Also, since the homework is nearly complete – most evaders have been identified – the government must give a clear timeline for what is to follow. The last thing people need now is for this corrective drive to go into deep freeze, like every other time.
The caretaker setup is only around for a short time, and there’s every chance that the post-election administration will undo the whole thing if substantial progress hasn’t already been made.
Time is of the essence also because the sooner all the overdue taxes are squeezed out of all the evaders, the sooner the government can go back to the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and demand a fair revision of some of the harsher “upfront conditions”; and also negotiate a better follow-up program.
The fact that the establishment has repeatedly vowed to back the government in all its efforts to straighten out the economy could be the real game changer in this effort.
It is very important to understand that the success of this initiative would not only help the economy and discourage a popular revolt, it would also help right a very grave wrong.
How unfair that our paragons of democracy, whom ordinary people vote into power, abuse those very people by exploiting the honest and protecting the dishonest. And this went on and became accepted as the natural state of affairs in this country until the most vulnerable segments of society literally ran out of money and took to the streets in a kind of frenzy that the state had not seen before.
This is, without a doubt, the country’s last chance to get its act together. It’s already regrettable that the state is scrambling like this not because it is the right thing to do, but because it’s run out of excuses to let the circus continue. Now it’s got the fifth-largest population in the world, buried under unprecedented inflation and unemployment, hoping for another miracle.
Let there be no doubt, if it still cannot deliver that miracle, then it will have to deal with an unprecedented implosion as well. We’ve not seen the establishment and government join hands to take this particular bull by the horns before, so there’s reason to be hopeful.
It’s about time the country’s honest taxpayers and dishonest tax cheats got what they truly deserve.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023