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Pakistan’s economy Plugging leaks, poking holes – Who will pay for Pakistan’s state?

PAKISTAN’S national poet, Muhammad Iqbal, believed the subcontinent’s Muslims needed to unite if they were to prosper. Without a strong sense of nationhood, he wrote, “mountains become straw and are blown away in the wind”.

Poetry and taxes do not often mix. But those melancholy lines grace an analysis of Pakistan’s fiscal plight by Ehtisham Ahmad of the London School of Economics. The country’s tax revenues have collapsed. Its debt is almost certainly unsustainable without outside help. And yet Pakistan does not pull together. “Textile lobbies, the urban gentry, traders and agriculturists, all point to the other and say: Tax that group first, but do not tax me,” Mr Ahmad writes.

The tax authorities can identify a mere 768,000 individuals who paid income tax last year. Even fewer—just 270,000—have paid something in each of the past three years. That is one reason why Pakistan’s tax revenues amounted to only 9.1% of GDP in the latest fiscal year, one of the lowest ratios in the world (see chart). These are exceedingly narrow shoulders on which to rest a nuclear-armed state of 180m people. The culture of cheating starts at the top. Most members of parliament, many of them conspicuously affluent, do not file tax returns.

In the months before an election, due by May, the government of President Asif Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) is proposing a controversial remedy: an amnesty for evaders. They will be invited to wipe the slate clean with a one-off payment of only 40,000 rupees ($400). The government says it is a quick way to resuscitate the public finances and expand the tax net. Its critics see the amnesty as a boon for politically connected crooks.

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China Pullout Deals Blow to Pakistan

Mining Company Abandons $19 Billion Pact; Move Is Setback to Islamabad’s Effort to Establish Beijing as Foil to U.S.

By TOM WRIGHT in New Delhi and JEREMY PAGE in Beijing

A Chinese mining company pulled out of what was to be Pakistan’s largest foreign-investment deal because of security concerns, complicating Islamabad’s effort to position its giant neighbor as an alternative to the U.S. as its main ally.

An official at China Kingho Group, one of China’s largest private coal miners, said on Thursday it had backed out in August from a $19 billion deal in southern Sindh province because of concerns for its personnel after recent bombings in Pakistan’s major cities. …

Read more » The Wall Street Journal

New corruption scandal deals blow to India’s image

By Paul de Bendern and Jui Chakravorty

NEW DELHI/ MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s reputation as a place to do business took another hit after the scandal-tainted government charged top public sector bankers with accepting bribes initially estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.

The scandal is one of the biggest to taint India, potentially harming the image of Asia’s third-largest economy as destination for foreign investors, especially as it comes a few days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has had to defend his government in another graft scandal involving telecoms licences sold at rock-bottom prices. …

Read more : Reuters