A wider net: on the expanding tax base
As the tax base widens, the Finance Minister should cut the share of indirect taxes
The demonetisation of high-value currency notes and the advent (अवतार) of the goods and services tax regime have triggered a surge (तेज़ी से चढ़ना) in the number of those filing taxes in the country. The Economic Survey argues that the large gains on the indirect and direct tax fronts indicate that the primary intentions behind the two big-bang economic strides — of formalising the economy and bringing more income into the tax net — have been met to some extent. From about 59 million individuals who filed income tax returns or whose tax was deducted at source in 2015-16, the number of tax-filers rose by 10.1 million since the note ban. Stripped (नग्नीकृत) of statistical adjustments to avoid a bias in findings, the Survey assesses that roughly 1.8 million, or 3% of the existing compliers, started paying up. Many of them are reporting incomes close to the ₹2.5-lakh threshold for personal income tax, so this may not swell the exchequer much. But it holds potential for growth as the new taxpayers progress in their vocations. Personal income tax collections are expected to rise to a historic high of 2.3% of GDP in 2017-18, compared to 2% between 2013-14 and 2015-16. This may seem glacial (हिमरूप) progress but could be considered a tipping point in a country where just 4% of adults pay personal income tax, though the government reckons that number should be 23%.
The Survey finds a 50% increase in unique indirect taxpayers in the first six months of GST, with around 10 million registered taxpayers now compared to an estimated 6.5 million pre-GST. The GST regime, despite the initial chinks (दरार), could end up boosting India’s macro-economic stability by breaking what the Survey terms ‘inertia’ of the tax-GDP ratio. This ratio for the Centre has remained at the same level since the 1980s, though the economy grew at an annual average of about 6.5%. The Survey has noted that both of India’s underlying macro weaknesses — the fiscal and current account deficits — tend to get exacerbated (तीव्र करना) when oil prices move up. A wider tax base could at least help tackle the former. Fixing exporters’ GST woes and continuing to ease the transition pains under its new features, such as e-way bills to deter (रोकना) evasion, would be critical to attain the 7%-7.5% growth projected for the coming year. At the same time, the government needs a road map to expand the direct tax pie by pruning (कामुकता) blanket exemptions for vocations such as farming and using a more proactive (अग्रसक्रिय) Big Data-driven approach to target evaders. The government must reward this tax base expansion by offering the ‘compliant’ some relief in the Budget, even if it means slashing high duties on petroleum products. After all, high indirect taxes pinch the poorest the most.
1. Advent: The arrival of a notable person or thing.
Synonyms: arrival, appearance, emergence, materialization, surfacing, occurrence, dawn, origin, birth, rise, development
Antonyms: decamping, decampment, departing, departure, disappearance, exit, exiting, farewell, going, leave-taking, parting, quitting
2. Stripped: acking a usual or natural covering
Synonyms: bald, bare, denuded, exposed, open, peeled, naked, uncovered
Antonyms: overgrown, overrun, overspread, covered, apparelled, attired, clad, clothed, dressed, garbed, invested, robed, suited
3. Glacial: lacking in friendliness or warmth of feeling
Synonyms: antiseptic, arctic, brittle, chill, chilly, clammy, cold-blooded, cold-eyed, coldish, cool, frigid, frosty, frozen, gelid, cold, hard-eyed, icy, unfriendly, unsympathetic, wintry (also wintery)
Antonyms: cordial, friendly, genial, happy, hearty, sympathetic, warm, warm-blooded, warmhearted
4. Chinks: A narrow opening, typically one that admits light.
Synonyms: opening, gap, space, hole, aperture, break, breach, crack, fissure, crevice, cranny, cleft, cut, rift, split, slit, slot
5. Exacerbated: Make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse.
Synonyms: aggravate, make worse, worsen, inflame, compound
Antonyms: allay, alleviate, assuage, ease, help, mitigate, relieve
6. Deter: to steer (a person) from an activity or course of action
Synonyms: discourage, dissuade, inhibit
Antonyms: encourage, persuade
7. Pruning: to make (something) shorter or smaller with the use of a cutting instrument
Synonyms: bob, crop, cut, cut back, dock, lop (off), nip, pare, poll, clip, shave, shear, snip, trim
Antonyms: elongate, extend, lengthen
8. Proactive: creating or controlling a situation rather than just responding to it after it has happened.
Synonyms: farseeing, farsighted, forehanded, foreseeing, forethoughtful, forward, forward-looking, prescient, foresighted, provident, visionary
Antonyms: half-baked, half-cocked, improvident, myopic, shortsighted
Siege of terror: on Afghanistan’s growing security crisis
The Taliban and the Islamic State are exposing Kabul’s growing inability to keep the peace
With four attacks in 10 days that killed at least 158 people in Afghanistan, terrorists have sent a loud message to the government and its international backers. Of the four, two were claimed by the Taliban — the raid on January 20 in Kabul’s tightly-guarded Intercontinental Hotel and the January 27 ambulance bombing in a busy street. The Islamic State attacked a British children’s charity in Jalalabad on January 24 and an army post outside the capital days later. Though the IS and the Taliban are opposed to each other in the complex conflict landscape, both share a goal: to destabilise (अस्थिर करना) the state that has been built since 2001, and throw the country into further chaos. In recent years, despite the government’s claims of cracking down on militants, threats from the IS and Taliban have only grown. The IS, which lost territory in Iraq and Syria, is trying to build networks elsewhere, particularly in war-torn (युद्ध से ध्वस्त) Afghanistan. From an enclave in Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan, the group has planned and orchestrated (गुप्त रूप से आयोजित करना) several attacks, mainly targeting Shia minorities. Last year, the IS claimed at least 15 bombings in Afghanistan, while the Taliban is steadily expanding its firepower. Earlier, the Taliban had said it was targeting Afghan military facilities and soldiers, not civilians. As the ambulance bombing that killed more than a hundred people shows, the facts are to the contrary.
The Afghan government is caught in a classic security bind. Over the years, whatever it has done, including stepping up the military campaign against the Taliban, has only deepened the security crises. The protracted war and the indiscriminate use of airpower by the U.S. have turned a substantial portion of the rural population away from Kabul, a resentment (क्रोध) the Taliban has tapped into. The group now controls almost a third of the country. And as the war drags on, other militant groups such as the IS have also swept in, making a solution to the crisis even more elusive. The Taliban is now too strong to be defeated outright, but not strong enough to unseat the government in Kabul. This is the stalemate the war has entered. When U.S. President Donald Trump announced more troops for Afghanistan in August, the plan was to break this logjam. But since that announcement, the Taliban has increased its attacks, in an apparent message to Washington that a military solution is not possible. Even the tough line the U.S. has taken vis-à-vis Pakistan, which has direct links with the Taliban and its allies in the Haqqani network, by withholding military aid doesn’t seem to have had any immediate impact on Islamabad. The problem is the lack of a cohesive strategy. The U.S. focuses too much on the military aspects of the problem, while the Afghan government, plagued by corruption and infighting, remains incompetent in tackling the challenges it faces. In such a scenario, it’s advantage Taliban.
1. Destabilise: Upset the stability of (a region or system); cause unrest or instability in.
Synonyms: undermine, weaken, impair, damage, subvert, sabotage, unsettle, upset, disrupt, wreck, ruin
Antonyms: strengthen, shore up
2. war-torn: (of a place) racked or devastated by war.
Synonyms: devastated, ruined, wrecked, desolate
3. orchestrated: Plan or coordinate the elements of (a situation) to produce a desired effect, especially surreptitiously.
Synonyms: organize, arrange, put together, plan, set up, bring about, manage, mobilize, mount, stage, stage-manage, mastermind, choreograph, coordinate, direct, engineer
Antonyms: ignore, burst, crack, extemporize, incapacitate, undress
4. resentment: Bitter indignation at having been treated unfairly.
Synonyms: bitterness, indignation, irritation, pique, displeasure, dissatisfaction, disgruntlement, discontentment, discontent, resentfulness, bad feelings, hard feelings, ill feelings, acrimony, rancour, animosity, hostility, jaundice, antipathy, antagonism, enmity, hatred, hate
Antonyms: benevolence, goodwill, kindness, sympathy, contentment, delight, gratification, happiness, pleasure