Dhaka, Bangladesh
Fiscal anaemia

Fiscal anaemia

What could be more disheartening for the new chairperson of the Federal Board of Revenue Muhammad Javaid Ghani than to encounter, on his way in, the tombstones of three of his predecessors? All three had been disposed of within two years. It is said lightning never strikes thrice. Yet out of all the senior posts in the federal government, the top job in the FBR seems particularly accident-prone. Run down the list of former chairpersons over the past 50 years, since 1971. You will find unusually high casualties. Between 1971 and 1975, there were three. Another three (N.M. Qureshi, 1975-80; Fazlur Rahman Khan, 1980-85; I.A. Imtiazi, 1985-1988) survived longer — a total of 13 years. However, between May 2009 and July 2020 (a period of just over 11 years), the FBR chair has seated 13 incumbents — an average of just under one every fiscal year. Two women amongst them received shorter shrift. Ms Rukhsana Yasmin lasted one month in 2018, and Ms Nausheen Javaid Amjad, inducted in April this year, was ushered out by July. The first of the four appointed by the present coalition government was Syed Shabbar Zaidi, a senior chartered accountant. Some years before his selection, he had articulated his views in an article he wrote for Dawn in 2015. In it, he held “taxes are the price of civilisation. There can be no state, and no rule of law, without proper revenue mobilisation. And revenues do not come walking through the door of the tax authorities”. FBR chairpersons do, and are then expelled through its revolving doors. Mr Zaidi lasted exactly one year in office. He might have stayed longer, had he learned to dance like his chartered accountant predecessor Abdullah Yusuf. Mr Yusuf felt no shame prancing before an official audience in Islamabad, applauded by president general Pervez Musharraf and prime minister Shaukat Aziz. Had they presence of mind, they would have realised that their mis-gendered mujra was being transmitted live across social media. It is now the more shameful part of FBR folklore. – The Dawn

Share |