Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced a tax amnesty on Thursday aimed at broadening the government’s revenue base in a country where only about 1 percent of the adult population are tax payers. The policy is meant to whiten undeclared assets at home and abroad, reduction in income tax rates for existing taxpayers and issuance of dollar-denominated bond.

This decision of the PM raises many questions-but perhaps the most suspicious one is- why now? We are nearing the right end of this government, with elections only a few months away. If the amnesty scheme takes place as the PM envisages it, it will come to place in July of the next fiscal year, at a time where the next government will have set up reigns, and could easily do away with the scheme, with the policy having achieved nothing. To come up with such a policy at such an unusual time pipes interest at what the exact aims for this amnesty scheme is.

This is even more so considering amnesty schemes have not been proved to be successful in the times they have been introduced recently. The last example of an amnesty scheme was one tried by Mian Nawaz Sharif himself in 2016, which was a dismal failure, with only 128 people participating in the scheme instead of the expected million.

In theory, an amnesty scheme seems a good idea, with the objectives of bringing in more tax payers, and money back into the country’s circulation, and effectively decreasing the deficit. In reality, it has often failed. This is because most of the assets abroad undeclared are not due to tax evasion, but assets beyond means, which if caught, could lead to seizure and punishment. Thus, instead of encouraging declaration and payment of tax, such amnesty schemes often play out to be smokescreens, to “whiten” money unaccounted for.

The Prime Minister has, with this scheme, attempted to get rid of the loopholes associated with amnesty schemes, by excluding public office holders; and providing lower income tax rates to encourage more taxpayers to enter the loop. While having a well-rounded economic package is an efficient move to include more potential tax payers, the question still lingers around this ill-timed scheme- is it too little, too late? The most key component of an amnesty scheme should be the element of trust in the smooth running of the scheme, but with the government just on the edge of expiry, this scheme seems predicted to fail.