After seven decades, four districts in Punjab have managed to accumulate a deficit of approximately Rs47 billion, prompting the province to impose a garbage tax on residents. The large sum amounting to the total debt highlights that waste disposal was hardly considered a priority in the past. If planning had been done according to the needs of a city or locale to function smoothly, such a gargantuan debt would have been reduced. Nonetheless, going forward, establishing such a tax is not only an intelligible move, but also the duty of every citizen to take ownership of the pollution he or she contributes to our shared environment.
Similar to the sin tax on cigarette sales and a sugar tax imposed in some cities and countries across the world — and others flirting with similar concepts — the eventual outcome could be that citizens are more cognisant of the amount of waste they discard on a regular basis. With pollution at exorbitant levels, citizens need to realise that waste management is a difficult task and one that is the collective responsibility of all members of a society. Requiring an increase in tax by almost triple the amount or more, the serious lack of funding is exposed. However, since the current amount paid by residents is a modest Rs35 and a new tax between Rs100 and Rs1,000 is being considered; a gradual increase should be planned with citizens informed of what may be to come — adding that climate change, for which pollution is to blame, has cost the country millions of dollars.
The PTI’s move of allocating the sin tax funds to the health department makes sense: persons who choose unhealthy practices that increase the burden on national healthcare should contribute more towards its budget. Likewise, households that accumulate excessive garbage for their respective sizes should be taxed higher.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 11th, 2018.
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