There is a general lack of consistency in the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) economic policy. From one policy to another, we see the government shifting between increasing revenue streams and also allowing for greater concessions to businesses through other means.

None of this is more prominent than in the energy charges levied to businesses across the country. While the government has consistently looked to increase costs of consuming energy commercially, it is now defending its ludicrous decision to write off an estimated Rs 240 billion out of a total Rs 420 billion owed by corporations to the government under the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) Act 2015.

As the name suggests, the law in question was passed to charge corporations the cost of using the gas infrastructure alongside the use of the gas itself, as a means to use these funds for further investment into the gas sector. Passed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) the law in question was not seen as problematic by representatives of any party when it was passed, which is why it is strange that PTI has unilaterally decided to cut the cess rates by half. This means that not only will half of the existing overdue payments be recovered, the tax rate in the future will also be 50 percent of what it used to be.

The cess waiver only comes with the added caveat of the companies withdrawing their cases against the government, if they choose to accept the reduced rates. This is indicative of the government giving in to the companies that have taken the matter to court; it is conceding to their demands and is losing Rs 200 billion in the process. All of this comes while the ruling party is increasing taxes for the average man – big businesses can afford to pay these taxes and hence do not need bailouts from the government. With every passing day, PTI’s economic policy becomes more convoluted and unclear. This ad hoc approach of looking to increase revenues, but caving into big businesses will only lead to problems in the future. PTI can do one of two things – it can either admit that its economic decisions are taken without the interest of the masses in mind or it can start increasing tax rates and recoveries from the wealthiest in the country. Doing both at the same time is not possible.

Perhaps PTI should stop pretending to have the interests of the general population as a driving force and accept that it does not have the spine to take on big businesses to substantially increase the state’s revenue receipts in a more conscientious way.