A house in disarray

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Biases and knee-jerk responses are known to tear down the wall of any reasonable argument. But not without a measure of damage. The standard quote of both opposition and treasury members on the floods is the US is giving a disproportionately low amount of aid in the face of one of the worst natural disasters that Pakistan has faced in its history. Ditto for analysts, columnists and TV anchors. But it sure must rankle when the Americans respond by asking a simple question: why should our taxpayers pay when yours arent?

Call of do-more may be irritating coming from the West but they are not way off the mark. Just as in the war against terror we sure can do more in dismantling the terror networks that currently blight our land, there is much to be done on the economic front as well. Our tax-to-GDP ratio, one of the lowest in the regions, is a shameful comment on the way the state has dealt with the issue of taxation. We have, in theory, progressive taxation system but many within the elite of the land pay a laughably low tax. This includes some of the otherwise populist leaders of political parties. The reluctance to impose an agricultural tax, at least on the big landowners, is yet another reflection of the priorities of the ruling elite. Citing the costs of floods, they can further penalize those already in the tax net but cannot do the same in case of large landholdings.

All is not bleak, however. On the issue of agricultural tax, for instance, Sindh in particular, has claimed to be close to making headway. The governments decision to move towards a reformed GST regime is another development. To be fair to the developed world, these steps have not gone unnoticed. US envoy Richard Holbrooke has assured the government that his administration will do more to help the country out. Between them, Japan and the US have donated a billion dollars. It is about time we get out of our persecution mania and meet the rest of the world halfway.