Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders (ICST) on Saturday said wealth inequality is widening at a rapid pace which is triggering anger among masses. Under taxing rich is hitting public services that is taking a toll on the masses and the economy, it said. Cosmetic measures will not reduce the divide between rich and poor therefore concrete steps must be taken immediately, said Patron ICST Shahid Rasheed Butt. He said that wealth inequality started in the country in 1977, which continues till the day while the progressive tax system was converted into a regressive system in 1991 which started squeezing poor to benefit the rich. He noted that over the last few decades tax on poor was increased by 35 percent while the rich got relief of 18 percent triggering poverty and concentration of wealth on the country. Now the situation has deteriorated to an extent that seventh percent taxes are being collected from the poor providing a free ride to wealthy, he added. Shahid Rasheed Butt said that regressive taxation continues to damage the poor but the rural population is worst hit with Baluchistan on the top where 62 percent people are living below the poverty line. Not even one-fourth of the tax potential is being realised leaving no room for social development resulting in frustration among masses. He said that poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water is resulting in one hundred thousand deaths annually while fifty-five thousand children below the age of five die due to diarrhoea. Poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water is inflicting a loss of Rs 400 billion annually to the national economy. Published in Daily Times, February 24th 2019.