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Don’t go away

What have we – another crucial moment for national economy? And how does our Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government respond to it? Responsibly, of course, showing great maturity, doing the right thing by the people it is committed to serve and refusing to be held back by a campaign promise. The petty minded will be quick to point out that sticking to core campaign pledges has not typified governance in the all new Pakistan. A lesser leader might have found embarrassing the way policies have actually come out in the end on all things related to money, though the leitmotif is in no way limited to it.
So, there it is – yet another tax amnesty scheme on our hands. A bit like the IMF bail out – which has never worked in the past, but will surely deliver the intended results now that the PTI is in power. Expect the tax thieves to fall in line, file honest returns, whiten all their black money and be law-abiding citizens ever after, now that Imran Khan the Honest is asking for it. The government will not only get four rupees out of every 100 that had never been reported to the tax man, the entire economy will get documented. Expect a tsunami of tax revenue over years to come. Good luck.
The chatter leaking to the press suggests however that the new scheme is not radically different from the old in terms of serving the needs of the financial elite. If some of the country’s star financial reporters are to be believed, the amnesty scheme proposed by the former finance minister had proposed a 25 per cent charge for whitening the black money. The prime minister’s new adviser on finance saw the matter differently and settled for a ‘reasonable’ 4 per cent.
Does the big business like it? It should, considering it is at their insistence that the prime minister agreed to this particular U-turn. As more details emerge it increasingly looks like that the community that pushed for the initiative is none other than the champions of benami assets who have built a black economy that eclipses the country’s formal economy in size, scope and magnitude.
That, probably, is why the PTI has felt compelled to take yet another leaf out of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s book. Hence the not-so-reassuring tone of Hafeez Shaikh at the press conference announcing the scheme in almost exactly the same words as Miftah Ismail.



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