News - Afghanistan
In response to the recent one day general strike launched by business owners in Kabul, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday promised the Afghan business community that their grievances regarding the country's taxation system would be addressed right away.
"A government delegation will soon meet the officials of the Ministry of Finance and the issue will be resolved in a few days," Abdullah said. "A settlement that could ensure the interests of the people and the government should be found," he added.
Meanwhile, MPs have joined the chorus of business owners calling on the government to address the grievances of small taxpayers. In particular, lawmakers have harped on the need for reform aimed at curtailing corruption within the tax system.
"The existence of corruption in government institutions has weakened public interests in paying taxes," said Habiba Danish, a member of Parliament's Economic Commission. "Therefore, the government must resovle the issues of small taxpayers."
Others made direct and explicit demands of steps the government. "Government should have fired the employees of the Ministry of Finance involved in corruption, but so far such a decision hasn't been made and this shows the lack commitment to fight corruption," MP Rangina Kargar said. "If this situation continues, Afghanistan will move toward crisis."
Officials at the Ministry of Finance have not shied away from identifying the government's decision to raise the sales tax as the cause of business owners' grievances, effectively distancing the ministry itself from the policy that led to the recent strike.
"As per the decision of the government, a 27 percent increase was made on sales taxes," MoF spokesman Abdul Qadir Jailani said on Wednesday. "But so far it isn't clear what measures the government will take to decrease taxes."
Although no officials have bothered to explain any rational behind the tax hike, the move could be a method for corrupt tax-collecting officials to compel greater bribes from business owners, independent economic experts have suggested.
"The protestors weren't aimed to escape taxes, but the protests aimed to criticize the tax collecting methods that are pursued by the staff of the Ministry of Finance because they are asking for bribes from shopkeepers while collecting taxes," economic analyst Syed Massoud told TOLOnews. "The government so far hasn't succeeded in curbing corruption inside the institutions, and in the future, as well, the ministry of finance has little hope for eliminating corruption," Massoud added.