It was always expected to yield lukewarm results, but the abject failure of the tax amnesty scheme lies squarely on the shoulders of the government’s economic team. With the June 30 deadline looming ever closer, there are reports that only 250 individuals have utilised the scheme to pay Rs450 million in taxes; a drop compared to the ocean expected by the government.

The Prime Minister’s televised appeal to the nation, taking ownership of a deeply flawed plan, was an affirmation of all heads in government more or less agreeing that this scheme would help improve revenue collection. Previous governments of different parties have used the amnesty scheme as a last-ditch attempt as well – how many more times will this country have to see a lazy policy being used to solve one of Pakistan’s most exigent issues?

The amnesty scheme works on the marginal utility principle anyway; each one announced is likely to appeal to a fewer number of people, unless properly spaced through the years. Given that the last one was announced only a year ago in 2018, this new amnesty scheme was not going to bring in a windfall of black assets and at least one economic mind in government should have considered this crucial point.

The government has hurt itself in pursuing this policy; the amnesty scheme in 2018 orchestrated by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government led to the legalisation of roughly Rs2.4 trillion in black assets from 84000 individuals. The government has opened itself up to comparison and the first reported look at this year’s abysmal numbers do not make for a good showing. With two-thirds of the month having passed, the ruling party’s efforts in the reported awareness campaign being launched might all come to naught. The country can only hope that this failure will lead to a more thorough attempt at formulating a new policy that actually ends up increasing the number of tax payers in the country.