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Getting to grips with reality

| Updated: April 28, 2022 20:56:30

Getting to grips with reality

It comes across as a contradiction that the duly considered opinion of a cross section of society in certain matters is ignored in others. Even though the engagement sessions aren't fully representative, they provide for a start-sort of. That's more than can be said of more direct, pertinent and impactful matters such as the budget. Governments do have eyes and ears on the ground to get what is described as the Vox Populi through a variety of means. As with most cases where these eyes and ears aren't monitored or examined for the inevitable system bugs, information output run the risk of being skewed.

The media is replete with instances of corruption, mismanagement and processed manipulation of the law. In an effort to enthuse optimism in the public eye, stories of dire distress often take a back seat. Small gains resulting from policy corrections may soften the impact on societal issues; they don't alleviate the pain of a full punch in the gut. The state's efforts to balance short term requirements of different sections of society often err. The middle-class, that silent, faithful driving force of economy is squashed between measures that are increasing the number of millionaires and creating buffers at the poverty level. The inevitable mid and long term effect of this promises little but a decline in consumption and earnings.

The visible signs are not encouraging as the pre-budget discussions run on. The same groups, the same points don't exude confidence. Everyone wants tax cuts and sops, demands carefully wrapped in promises of higher Gross Domestic Product (GDP), export growth or employment. There are few that challenge such assumptions barring some demure voices in the government, mostly from National Board of Revenue (NBR). Their worries lie in matching government expectations of revenue versus all such demands. They too, don't raise the issue of non-achievements against those 'finely wrapped promises'. When it gets to half-year reviews the arguments are neatly deflected. Widen the tax net-is such an overused term so as to become banal. Anyone worth their salt will know how difficult that is in the fiefdoms of more semi-urban areas where politics and muscle are bared in no uncertain ways.

Times have changed from the one-size-fits-all days. Definitions of the different sectors of the economy may have stayed constant; the defining borders are changing consistently. Policy support in terms of taxation and monitoring must change from mere metropolis considerations. For all the exhortations of decentralisation and reversing migration, the policy packages have been found wanting. The concept of the 64 Governors and village cooperatives proposed under Bakshal might appear alluring to some people. Today's ground realities do not support such moves being implemented. The theory behind the Upazilla concept was a step forward had all aspects been implemented. Skinning a cat is a daft idea when you're left with unusable skin and useless meat. That is provided it isn't for the benefit of scavengers, even though they exist and continue to grow.

Obvious among many aspects is the need to increase the minimum tax threshold if income to reflect income growth.. The paltry few that report paying taxes require more support in tandem with more expenses in living costs. Someone, somewhere has to sit down with out-of-fashion pencil-paper number crunching to work out how much it costs to live decently in the face of price hikes of essentials, power, gas, water, public transport fares, education and coaching and the resultant spin-off cost increases. In turn, that has to be balanced and measured against salaried income in both public and private sectors (multinational salaries shouldn't be part of such balancing).While governments never really consider the unaccounted for costs such as bribes, extortion and galling rent-seeking, these can no longer not be factored in.

Some TV personalities are doing their bit in getting the farmers' views across. The emerging IT sector has BASIC to represent them. Sadly, parliamentarians aren't holding discussions with constituents about how and what priorities to address or presenting such views in whatever semblance of debate is meaningful in parliament. Reality suggests the middle-class are losing their savings in order to survive. The poor have in many cases, received two to three times support that had been planned for. The lines that snake out behind the TCB trucks are getting longer. Discontent is simmering.

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