Published Date: Jan 22, 2019
Decision makers least interested in resolving poor people’s issues
ISLAMABAD: Prominent economist Dr Kaiser Bengali on Monday said decision makers were least interested in resolving issues of the poor.
“We are living in a country where some people purchase imported food for their dogs and cats. One the other hand, there are also people who even cannot afford three-time food for their children. The government should spend at least one per cent of the GDP on programmes such as Benazir Income Support Programme and provide free of cost food to the poor. Moreover, non-development expenditures, including the defence spending, have to be cut down.”
He was speaking at an event “Public policy forum and inequality report launch: public good or private wealth?” organised by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Oxfam at a local hotel.
Dr Bengali said two Pakistan have been created in one country. One is for the elite class that doesn’t care about the poor. The system is making the wealthy people wealthier and the poor poorer.
“Top 10pc rich people pay 10pc of the total tax while the bottom 10pc pay 16pc of the tax. There are families who go to Dubai in the morning and after spending half a million rupees return in the evening. On the other hand, after a heat wave in Karachi a few years ago, 300 dead bodies were not claimed by their families from hospitals because they could not afford their burial,” he said.
Govt should spend at least one per cent of GDP on welfare programmes and provide free of cost food to poor, Dr Kaiser Bengali says
“The tuition fee of a student of an elite school is four times higher than the salary of a watchman of the same school. On the one hand there are two to three cars in a house and on the other in Karachi people walk 20 kilometres to save the bus fare so that they would spend it on purchasing food for their children,” he said.
Dr Bengali said the economy did not have the capacity to generate more taxes. He said there would be no benefit of spending on defence if people were dying of hunger.
“In neo-liberalism wages are cut and labours are laid off to protect profits. The rich are not ready to share even bread with the poor. We have to question the rationale of the state as the state has been collecting extortion not taxes. Moreover, it only protects the elite class,” he said.
To prove his point, he said, the Supreme Court legalised a twin towers [Grand Hyatt] in the federal capital because it had sold apartments to influential people, including the prime minister.
He said Banigala was also illegal but the master plan of Islamabad is being changed to legalise it because the prime minister lives there. On the other hand, thousands of houses of poor people were bulldozed by declaring them illegal.
“Currently, the state and economy are collapsing but most of the rich have foreign passports so in case of any tragedy they would only have one worry – to reach the airport.”
In reply to a question, Dr Bengali said the solution was to approach courts but people should not forget that cases against influential people were never heard.
States only move when it is pressured such as the West decided to give labour rights because of the fear of a red revolution.
“Until and unless rich are threatened, the state would not move so the solution is a revolt.” There should be someone who could stand against the elite class, Dr Bengali said.
Tax expert Dr Ikramul Haq said though 95 million Pakistanis paid taxes only 1.4 million of them filed their tax returns. He said mostly there were indirect taxes in Pakistan.
Columnist Mosharraf Zaidi said though 22 chains of private schools charged very high fees, even they did not provide quality education.
“There are only eight chains of schools that are providing quality education but they charge each student Rs40,000 fee. On the other hand, over 22 million children are out of school,” he said.
SDPI’s Executive Director Dr Abid Suleri said governments should listen to the ordinary citizens and set concrete and time-bound targets and prepare action plans to reduce inequality as a part of their commitments under the Sustainable Development Goal 10 on inequality.
The report showed that globally the number of billionaires had almost doubled since the financial crisis with a new billionaire created every two days between 2017 and 2018.
Yet wealthy individuals and corporations are paying lower rates of tax than they have in decades. While 26 of the richest people own the same wealth as the 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of humanity and the super-rich hide $7.6 trillion from tax authorities depriving developing countries of $170bn a year.
It claimed that the world’s sixth most populous nation, Pakistan had had witnessed constant challenges along ethnic, religious and political interests while concurrently displaying resilience and dynamism.
Pakistan is today the 44th largest economy (GDP) and despite vast natural resources and promising conditions, the country’s human and economic potential remains largely underdeveloped.