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Pakistan taxes own citizens to raise money for flood relief

by Staff Writers
Islamabad (AFP) Nov 10, 2010
Pakistan increased income tax on the relatively well off Wednesday to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the victims of the country's devastating floods.

The cabinet agreed to impose what it called a "Flood Relief Surcharge", raising income tax payments by 10 per cent for the next six months for Pakistanis earning 300,000 rupees (3,500 dollars) or more a year.

A special excise duty on non-essential and "luxury items", both imported and local, will also go up from one percent to two percent.

"By these measures we will collect 40 billion rupees (470 million dollars) from well off people," finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told a press conference after the cabinet meeting in Islamabad.

"The tax will be payable from January to next six months after parliamentary approval," he said, adding that it was a one-off measure.

As an example, he said that someone paying 300 rupees income tax would have to pay 330 rupees for six months.

Shaikh said that the international community was donating to Pakistani flood victims, but better-off Pakistanis should also make a contribution.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last month said Pakistan's wealthy needed to dig into their own pockets to match global efforts to help it recover from 9.7 billion dollars of flood damages.

"It's absolutely unacceptable for those with means in Pakistan not to be doing their fair share to help their own people while taxpayers in Europe, the United States and other contributing countries are all chipping in," Clinton said in Brussels.

The World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADN) said they estimated damages from the floods at 9.7 billion dollars, almost double the amount caused by Pakistan's 2005 earthquake.

Unprecedented monsoon rains triggered catastrophic flooding across Pakistan in July and August, ravaging an area roughly the size of England and affecting 21 million people in the poverty-stricken country's worst natural disaster.

Only 40 percent of a record UN appeal for nearly two billion dollars -- about 775 million dollars -- has been received to date, the latest UN statistics show.

Shaikh said that as well as the flood tax, the cabinet also approved reforms in the general sales tax.

A uniform 15 percent tax is being proposed to replace current rates ranging from 17 to 25 percent, he said, adding that the new tax system would be automated and its coverage expanded.

earlier related report
Natural disasters in Africa hamper millennium goals
Johannesburg (AFP) Nov 10, 2010 - Climate change disasters on the African continent have raised the need for an humanitarian response as poverty continues to plague communities, the Red Cross director for Africa said on Wednesday.

"Natural disasters related to global warming are becoming more frequent in African countries. We have seen more cases of drought and floods compared to previous years," said Alasan Senghore.

"This year alone we have intervened in up to six cases of floods in three months. The devastation is severe," said Senghore on the sidelines of an African leadership forum hosted by the Red Cross.

According to Senghore, natural disasters in poor African countries would make it hard for governments to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

"The global financial crisis has affected donor funding and prompted us to shift priorities," he said.

Senghore mentioned that some level of progress had been noted in African countries, such as in the area of HIV/AIDS prevention.

"Governments particularly in southern Africa have done well to prevent the spread of HIV, through interventions like education and providing care," said Senghore.

The United Nations set a 15-year timeframe at the turn of the millennium to achieve its goals of halving extreme poverty, boosting health and education and promoting gender equality across the developing world by 2015.

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