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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A New Order

There is an advertisement running on TV these days in Malaysia. I am sure that I have seen similar AD in India as well. The AD is from a telecom service provider which states that you can now buy credits for your phone in as convenient and smaller denominations as you like. Essentially, you need not recharge your prepaid account by $100 if you dont really need it. You can buy as low as $10 (10 cents, if you are in India).

This article is not about the appalling telecom advertisements (On the side, they do suck big in Malaysia). But I happened to watch that AD recently when I was debating whether I should pay my taxes any more and if yes, what the heck am I getting in return. Before you think otherwise, I am a very conscientious citizen and used to think that paying taxes is one's duty and in return, I am assured a safe hassle-free living alongwith the benefits that come with economic development off the reinvestment of taxes by the government. I am going to talk about only the first part as I dont think I am qualified to talk about the latter.

A safe hassle-free living. Yes, for the most part. But, really, when I think about it, I have hardly ever used any of the services that should be taken for granted. For example, traffic regulation and police protection should be extremely basic services to be expected if one is paying one's taxes. But, that is not the case. I have had numerous encounters with traffic police who have managed to find a fault or another and have given me hell. I have had two encounters with the police (in India and in Malaysia) trying to file a report and I had to walk away feeling that it is easier to steal than to report a theft. In India, we travelled from Delhi to Jaipur on road and actually speculated whether we were paying the toll for the road or its absence.

It made me wonder why should I pay my taxes when I am not sure what I am getting in return. Wouldnt it be easier if the government took some cue from the mobile operators and actually broke down the whole package into easy to understand choices. Example of such a crude break-down (I am sure it can be improved upon by experts):-

i) Minimalist - 5% taxes - Your existence is recognized by the goverment, You can use basic facilities like roads, avail of organized traffic. You are not allowed to go to police when your house is burgled and if you do you have to pay them for their service separately (at a higher rate).

ii) Basic package - 10% tax - You can avail of roads, police protection, citizen services, traffic regulation, etc.

iii) Basic + package - 15% tax - (ii) + government subsidized basic supplies like gas, rice etc.

iv) Advanced package - 20% tax - (iii) + other infrastructure facilities like subsidized water from a dam or cheap electricity from a nuclear reactor

v) Total package - 30% taxes - (iv) + social security

Now that would make life so much easier for people like me. I can look at it and choose what suits me best. I can go for the minimalist package if I believe in anarchy or I can go for the total package if I am a bloody socialist. The bottomline is that it would be my choice. I am sure it would bring a lot more people under the tax net as well and boost overall tax revenue. Such a plan would also force the respective departments to be more efficient, for if they are not upto the mark, people would stop availing of their services.

What say?