These are taxing times. Everyone is talking taxes and feeling taxed. The capitalists don’t want to pay the capital gains tax. The landlords don’t want to pay the agricultural income tax. The middle class is groaning under the weight of loads of indirect taxes. The working classes are dying of inflation — yet another form of taxing.
As family after family commits suicide because they cannot feed their children, our fabulously rich rulers extract more and more from public money. The presidency wants and gets Rs36.38 million more and the prime minister’s Secretariat wants and gets Rs56.65 million more. The president’s house gets Rs120 million for the maintenance of gardens, an obviously necessary and unavoidable expense. The president gets Rs5.39 million for tour expenses absolutely necessary to go around making fiery anniversary speeches, and relaxation after performing heavy official duties.
The prime minister gets Rs3 million for tour expenses, perhaps to shore up the election fortunes of fake degree holders, and to carry planeloads of cronies to major world capitals to convince them of Pakistan’s massive poverty and dire need for aid. Additionally, he receives Rs11.50 million for presents and charity, Rs94.509 million for staff and household, Rs26.25 million for state conveyances and purchase of cars, and Rs11.652 million for gardens. Lots of staff, loads of new luxury cars, lush green lawns, and manicured gardens with eye-catching landscaping are of course all necessary to keep the overburdened prime minister in peaceful bliss.
And this is not all. The law minister requires a plane to go traipsing off to various bar associations distributing cash and goodies for support in the Supreme Court Bar Association elections. The Punjab governor wants a bullet-proof Mercedes Benz for the spate of dignitaries that keep visiting him in the busy governor’s mansion. The generals want an unquestioned amount of money for more arms and ammunition to fight our major imaginary war against deadly imaginary enemies. The public sector development programme has to be continually slashed to accommodate a huge increase of 28.9 per cent or Rs99.26 billion for the defence, no sorry, the aggression budget.
Additionally, a veritable army of ministers, ministers of state, advisers and bureaucrats want more money for the great job they are doing of putting Pakistan back on the road to prosperity. The finance minister reveals that some of them have six cars, perhaps they need to be repeatedly bullet-proofed against an angry public who might soon force them to scramble for guillotine-proof necks.
The indigent in the meantime commit suicides after killing their children. The rulers have a very reassuring answer for them: they say suicide is the will of God. So it is not poverty in the midst of opulence and obscene wealth, or a Robin Hood-in-reverse state that lifts, subsidies for the poor and taxes them to maintain the lifestyles of the rich and famous. It is God who has ordained that some are born to live luxurious lifestyles based on the labour of others, while those who labour endlessly are doomed to die. Those who consume do not produce, and those who produce do not consume in this land of the pure.
And while economists and savvy experts endlessly debate tax-to-GDP ratio, fiscal deficit, the CPI index, trade imbalances, VAT, GST and other incomprehensible things, the ‘common man’ is choosing death over life while the rulers, especially loads of portfolio-less ministers, make merry with their foreign tours and manicured gardens where they hold parties and receptions wearing Rolex watches and Armani suits. Our rulers don’t feel the need to open their eyes and ears to the sordid reality of the daily-wager, sweating away for a pittance, for ‘when ignorance is bliss ‘tis folly to be wise’.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2010.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ