Tax Share

Author: Daily Times

To see one of the fastest-growing consumer categories in Pakistan, that too with a growth of over 20 per cent, resist attempts to be brought under the tax net, and more worryingly, pass on the tax burden to the end consumers is deplorable.

In the wake of the Finance Minister’s suggested removal of locally produced infant formula and fortified nutrition milk from the list of zero-rated products, industry representatives have stepped out in the open, holding a variety of placards. Some, with no shame whatsoever, point to the unwillingness of the trader to meet their obligations. Others tug at the heartstrings with mentions of Pakistan’s debilitating case of malnutrition. But all in all, a comprehensive movement abounds, targeted to arm-twist the government into changing the structure of its taxation formula.

Of course, even a whiff of this wheeling and dealing was enough to prompt a strong-worded joint statement from the likes of UNICEF and WHO against the conflict of interest in food governance. Over the years, the government has made efforts to eliminate this influence. In 2018, the Punjab government banned the marketing of formula milk in hospitals, especially for children under the age of one year. Just last year, the Sindh Assembly had passed an updated law to protect breastfeeding. Unfortunately, their operations rage on unabated due to the significant financial resources and powerful connections of those involved.

Instead of devising new plans to make profits off the backs of the most vulnerable segments of society, it would do well for the monopoly to consider what it can do to help put the priorities in the right direction. Rife reports about double standards of giants in our part of the world (where they bypass legislation and add considerably more sugar to the formula) and an overall twisting of scientific facts to back their claims needs to be ascertained by Islamabad as it determines its line of action to secure the health of millions of children who continue to suffer from one of the worst cases of malnourishment in the world.

For now, the only sensible approach should be for the manufacturers to pay their due share to the national kitty. They cannot, and should not, expect exasperated parents to scoop some more out of their thread-bare pockets to compensate for their civic duty. *

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