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Breaking what’s not broken

By Azmaish Ka-waqt
Area 14/8

In a magnanimous but totally inexplicable budgetary gesture the government has decreed that henceforth hybrid cars upto 1200cc engine capacity will be duty and tax free. It transpires that there are no hybrid cars in this engine capacity range. The government has also decided that bigger luxury hybrid cars could be imported on reduced duty. Many people are drooling and licking their chops in anticipation. For example a BMW 7 series active hybrid luxury car that cost Rupees 21 million will be almost 6 million cheaper because of a 25% reduction in customs duty. This applies to other cars too-like the Porsche Cayenne Hybrid SUV and other BMW hybrids. Small electric (not hybrid) cars are available but these have to be charged from power outlets that do not exist outside homes and in any case they would be useless because of the prolonged power outages. Hybrid cars will create new maintenance problems,expensive battery imports and even problems of discarded battery disposal. Maybe a long deep rethink is required unless someone has plans to cash in quickly before the policy dies its own death.

The Punjab government has decided to tax the rich. Houses more than two Kanals (1000 Square Yards) are to be subjected to a onetime lump sum heavy tax. How about houses and farms on of 50,100 or 240 acres or more? Why not a super duper tax? It is also worth noting that these days' huge luxury houses with basements,swimming pools and theaters are built on less than two kanals-mostly 800 square yards. Drive around Lahore Cantonment and Defence Housing Authority areas and you will get the picture. People will be falling over each other to sub divide their large plots into smaller ones. Like the luxury tax on cars proposed earlier this may face legal challenges or it may also die its own death. Beyond the cosmetic 'rich have been taxed' slogan this step is unlikely to raise any significant revenues. It sounds like the highway robbery of forcible collection of zakat from bank accounts!

The Finance Ministers statement that if the defence budget is reduced by 50 billion then he will do away with the increase in the GST sounds strange. He is the one who has sanctioned the defence budget with a 10 % increase or has he forgotten that he is now in the government of which the defence institution is a part? The interior minister complaining about the agencies and their performance sounds equally strange. A new 'security policy' promised by him within three days is absolutely amazing. The previous government could not do it in five years. While he is at it he should also get his government to issue a strategic directive to the Armed Forces and the Agencies laying down exactly what they should or should not do-this will make life much simpler and they will be 'reined in' as demanded by an honorable member of the Parliament. The TV anchors that are falling over each other to project the government viewpoint will get much needed clarity. The drooling tail wagging sycophants who were critical of those now in power and are now looking expectantly for crumbs and handouts need to be watched carefully and their new found writing skills thoroughly examined.