Pakistan’s tax system protects certain sectors and does not want to collect taxes from sectors including agriculture, real estate, and retail and wholesale trade, former chairman of Federal Board of Revenue Shabbar Zaidi has said.
“We are doing these things deliberately. The broadening of tax base is not likely in the immediate future unless the country adopt an autocratic approach for collecting taxes, he said while speaking with Asma Shirazi on Aaj TV show Faisla Aap Ka.
“Unfortunately, the track record of the two parties representing the PDM [coalition government] is not satisfactory on tax collection. One party has been lending undue support to the agriculturist lobby, while the other supports the traders,” the senior economist said.
Zaidi said that the political parties and establishment did not realise the severity of the problems Pakistan was facing. “I don’t know if they do it intentionally or unintentionally. When we got a commitment of $3 billion and acted as we did something extraordinary. I ask them how we are going to repay $91 billion in the next three years.”
He called for introducing an autocratic economic system in Pakistan for 10 years. “Everyone should be required to get documented even if he is a property tycoon or anything else. If we do not restructure the economic system, Pakistan will fell into an abyss.”
Renowned economist Abid Qaiyum Suleri said that all political parties know about the economic issues and the solutions to them. “Everyone also knows these issues were never addressed due to political reasons.”
“We know that the state owned enterprises cost us around Rs500 billion. When we talk about Steel Mills [privatisation], all the Karachi-based political parties including PPP, MQM, PTI and JI will oppose if they are not in the government,” he added.
The same is true for PML-N, which opposes the imposition of taxes on retailers as it will hurt its vote bank, Suleri stated.
Seasoned banker Zafar Masud said that the economy will be stabilised if Pakistanis take responsibility on individual basis. “We individuals have to realise what needs to be done and how it is supposed to be done. If people are willing to take difficult decisions for their own good and for the future generations, I believe it is good enough.”
He called agriculture a “low-hanging fruit” saying that if the country fixes the sector, then it can solve its issues on the external account as increasing the yield of the agri-products will help Pakistan boosting agriculture exports.