A seminar was held on Wednesday here at Government College University (GCU) Lahore to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on inequality and the role of wealth tax. Economic experts and academics emphasized the need for gender equality and stressed that Pakistan cannot progress without it.
The seminar, organized by the Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee in collaboration with the South Asia Alliance for Poverty Alleviation (SAAPE) and Oxfam International, brought together experts to examine the findings of the newly-released book, “Implications of COVID-19 on Economic Inequality in Asia” and the report “Tax Wealth Now.”
In his opening address, GCU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi congratulated Oxfam on the publication of the book, calling upon students of Economics and Sociology to study its findings. He stressed that understanding the implications of COVID-19 on economic inequality in Asia is vital for developing effective solutions to address the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on society. He highlighted the efforts that GCU has made to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mustafa Talpur, 67% of the wealth created in the world in two years was earned by 1% of the rich class, while 99% of people only received 37% of it. Mustafa Talpur highlighted the digital divide, where students without access to quality technology were unable to continue their education during the pandemic.
Dr Akbar Zaidi, Executive Director of the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Karachi, stated that poverty and inequality are two different things and that inequality has increased globally. He identified the main causes of inequality in Pakistan as gender bias and power structure inequality.
Dr Abid Aman Barki, Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), said that there is no specific scale to measure inequality yet and that it is a global problem that has been ongoing for several hundred years. He emphasized that European countries have successfully overcome inequality by taxing inheritance and wealth and that inequality has particularly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The General Secretary of Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee, Farooq Tariq, also spoke at the seminar, highlighting how inflation and food crisis have increased in Pakistan as a result of the pandemic. He criticized the government for providing incentives, tax breaks, and tax amnesty to the rich while the poor struggled with poverty and inflation. He further said that after poverty and inflation, further destruction in Pakistan was caused by climate change.
Professor Ayesha Ahmed of Universal College Lahore (UCL) stated that the poor are disproportionately affected by taxes, particularly indirect taxes and that the wealthy are able to avoid taxes through political connections. She also pointed out that the wealthy often resist efforts to implement wealth taxes, arguing that it harms the economy.
Information Technology University (ITU) Lahore Dean Fahad Ali also addressed the seminar.