The government was caught off guard when the National Assembly passed the Tax Revision Bill last Wednesday. The Assembly threw out all but one of the proposed taxes. And before the government realized it, their proposals to raise taxes on petrol, diesel, kerosene and LPG; refrigerators, freezers and air conditioners; meat, fish and eggs; silk fabric, furniture and power chainsaws; and alcohol were emphatically rejected by the National Assembly.
The only tax to get through was the “green tax” on new vehicles. But that too suffered a huge setback: the proposed 40% green tax on vehicles (with engines equal to or bigger than 1800 cc) was reduced by half, to 20%; and a 5% green tax, which the government had not proposed, was slapped on small vehicles.
On Thursday, the day after the Bill was passed, the government informed the Assembly that, when they voted on the Bill, they had understood that their proposal to increase taxes on alcohol had been accepted. They were wrong. The only tax that the Assembly approved, it turns out, was the green tax on vehicles.
The government should be ashamed. They should be ashamed for not paying attention in the National Assembly. I had, in fact, tried to notify the Assembly that we had not discussed the Tax Revision Bill properly, in detail, and that, more importantly, we were not clear on what we were voting on. But the government, at that time, chose to remain silent. They chose to take the Assembly for granted. And they should be ashamed.
But the government should be ashamed for a bigger and much more important reason. They should be ashamed that the Assembly rejected almost every proposal in the Tax Revision Bill. Of the government’s many proposals, the Assembly passed just one – to levy a green tax on vehicles – and that too was watered down drastically.
The government has failed to persuade the National Assembly that the proposed taxes are necessary. And the government has failed to convince the Assembly that the proposed taxes are good for our country and good for our people. In other words, the government does not enjoy the confidence of the National Assembly. And that, for a government that commands an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, is just shameful.
Photo credit: Kuensel