Rationalizing taxes

Vehicle taxes

The government has once again proposed to increase taxes on a list of non- essential commodities going by what the Finance Minister (FM) had presented in the National Assembly last week.

Even if it is a little too late, the proposal is timely. Revision of taxes is inevitable given the prevailing situation of our economy especially the shortage of Indian Rupee. Our balance of payment with India is only widening even if we are devising numerous strategies to sail over the situation.

The revisions will therefore definitely ease government’s financial situation.

But how it would is yet to be seen? A closer examination of the tax proposal raise doubts whether measures that are stipulated are really intended to serve the given purpose.

For instance, for vehicles above 1,800cc engine capacity, the tax proposal expounds that a green tax of 40% will be levied in addition to the 45% sales tax and customs duty on such vehicles.

However, what government overlooks here is the fact that import of vehicles above 1,800cc is not the most severe problem. It’s not the reason that is draining out the Indian Rupee and neither the ones causing traffic congestion in the town. There are just a negligible number of people who can afford to drive such cars.

If we look around closely it’s usually the various agencies and departments under the government that has a major chunk of these foreign vehicles. Thus, the FM’s argument that taxation of foreign cars would help the dollar reserves sounds wry.

This is because the government continues spending exorbitantly on foreign cars. Therefore, isn’t it time government should opt for an appropriate procurement system that will also help cut transportation cost?

Another surprising fact is that new taxes wouldn’t be applied to cars imported from India. While the FM expounded that Indian–made vehicles falling above 1,800 cc would be levied taxes, we know that almost all the cars that are presently imported from India are far below 1,800cc.

Some quarters of the people contended that taxes were proposed for petty things such as refrigerator (10%). They reasoned that it is a household necessity than a luxurious item, and that the new taxes were proposed just for the sake of imposing taxes.

Few can’t help but draw comparison to Pasakha industries that enjoy government subsidies and also have a detrimental impact on the environment. And their arguments seem genuine too as the whole area is covered with billowing dust and smokes from the factories. An impact of a household refrigerator is nothing compared to the exhaust pollutants from one industry.

While imposing new taxes isn’t a bad idea per se, the tax proposal must be rationalized in a more sensible manner.

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Green is Good

PM Walking

To embark on something, especially when bringing about massive change in a typical routine or schedule, is never so simple. The Pedestrians’ Day observed last Tuesday showed us so.

It was an arduous time and mixed responses from the public pertaining to the day were inevitable. While complaints were genuine, there were also genuine applauses pouring in.

Nevertheless, the Pedestrians’ Day was a significant one. Not just because people walked to offices on that particular day. It was significant because the day was one of our green initiatives to make a small contribution to the environment.

We have taken nature for granted hitherto. This was definitely a small way to undo or repay for all the harms we have done.

The day is also a timely reminder of how green our lifestyles are, especially people living in urban towns. For instance, how judiciously do we use electricity? How often do we remember to put out the lights in our home? How long do we keep the taps running?

Our pristine environment is increasingly being distressed with vehicle pollution owing to multiplying number of vehicles and subsequently fuel consumption.

This predicament is further aggravated by the influx of modern amenities such as air conditioners and refrigerators. Thus, we are only adding more pressure to the environment.
And how can we forget the garbage. We produce tons of garbage every week. Urban waste is becoming a mounting challenge and the landfill in Memelakha is filled to its brim.

We depend on the environment, but what have we given it in return? Perhaps that why, the Pedestrians’ day was significant as it showed us an alternative lifestyle that we can now adopt – green lifestyle.

It won’t be a mammoth task to adopt green lifestyle as a conscious choice of lifestyle of the people. In urban areas, we have forgotten about green lifestyle. And we aren’t living one either. We can only reminisce how people in rural areas coexist in harmony with nature.

A simple change in our lifestyle can actually go a long way in reducing our carbon footprint. And it must start at home. Using recycling materials. Minding the amount of garbage we produce every day. Switching off lights or television when there is no one watching it. And as simple as turning off the tap when you are brushing. All these are simple ways through which we can reduce wastage of resources.

We have numerous proclamations on environment conservation. While the country has pledged to remain carbon neutral, the Constitution has mandated 60% forest coverage for all times to come, but what have we done at an individual level?
To start with, the Pedestrians’ Day is a good opportunity for us to start a green lifestyle that is also healthy.

Petty & Personal

Opposition Leader

The level of immaturity hit rock bottom during Friday’s question hour session in the National Assembly when few members of parliament (MP) hijacked the occasion to hurl personal attacks on the Opposition Leader. It was a disgraceful example of how honorable MPs can stoop to dishonorable levels to get their points across.
The issue is not about DPT MPs speaking against the opposition leader but the manner in which it was done. This time the MPs crossed the line of propriety as debates turned into bitter, debasing diatribe. The deputy speaker, chairing the session, could have quickly put an end to it before it turned ugly but he failed to stop the attacking spree.
There are many lessons to learn from this incident. This is the penultimate session of the first parliament and by now MPs are expected to exhibit better sense and wisdom while engaging in parliamentary debates. Friday’s incident only reaffirmed that there is still a long way to go.
While the MPs have absolute freedom of speech and expression, they must know they can’t make irresponsible remarks or take pot shots at an MP from an opponent party. By doing so, they are not only disrespecting the dignity of an elected representative but also undermining the sanctity of the institution of the parliament. In addition, it is also big blow to the art of democratic debate that MPs, as torchbearers, are supposed to exemplify. MPs must be accountable for what they speak in the parliament.
We have always maintained the highest order of decorum in the parliament. Debates and discussions have been conducted in the most cordial manner with due respect for opposing views. This must continue and any one who tries to, consciously or out of sheer ignorance, jeopardize this status quo must be dealt with.We have witnessed how business is conducted in parliaments in different countries where MPs even go to the extreme length of physically abusing each other. Perhaps, this extreme may not happen here but whatever undesirable should be nipped in the bud. Today, it is verbal abuse. Tomorrow it could be sword fight.

As Bhutanese, we expect our elected leaders to have a sense of maturity, propriety and ethics. We expect them to engage in debates without having to resort to slur each other. Above all, we want them to prove that politics can be a clean game too. For now, it seems, there isn’t much to say.

Inside the parliament, MPs are expected to conduct themselves in the best of manners. The speaker has the power to interfere and even reprimand, if need be, to prevent discussions from going petty and personal.