Shabbar Zaidi has been officially confirmed as the new chairman of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) on an “honorary and pro bono basis for a period of two years with immediate effect”.
Well acquainted with the tax policy and administration affairs in Pakistan, Zaidi has been vocal about his opinions on all that is wrong with the tax administration and practices in Pakistan. In December 2011, speaking at a talk show, Zaidi drew the example of Singapore’s then tax authority chief saying, “The chief of Singapore’s tax authority is one of the highest paid officials and his remuneration is higher than any other multi-national official working in that country. Here [in Pakistan] anyone takes the post of FBR chairman either for power, with ill-intentions, or to serve someone’s interests – because there is no money.”
Media reports suggest Shabbar Zaidi is being appointed Chairman FBR without a salary and perks. Earlier he had said working without a salary means you are doing it to grab power, support another power or engage into corrupt practices. Now his own words boomerang. pic.twitter.com/xftORFyJNx
— Murtaza Solangi (@murtazasolangi) May 9, 2019
Interestingly enough, the appointment of Zaidi as FBR Chairman in 2019 came on a pro bono basis meaning that he will not be paid even the salaries paid to previous chairmen.
Another interesting point to note from the same interview was his statement that bringing an outsider [out of the federal board of revenue] to govern from the top is not the solution to the tax predicaments of the country.
“Mian Nawaz Sharif brought Moeen Khan and appointed him at a salary of Rs 10 Lacs. What he did not understand was that the other 22,000 bureaucrats working at the same rank did not stand behind him nor accepted his authority,” Zaidi said in that interview.
“What people don’t understand is that in bureaucracy, bringing an official to sit at the top doesn’t solve any problems,” was the statement back then of the current FBR Chief. It appears that the memories of that interview are still quite fresh in the minds of people, as there has been an upheaval on social media about this new appointment.
Only Shabbar Zaidi can tell what changed his mind over the past eight years, but as per the widely documented record of his speeches, it seems that his appointment at a pro bono basis and the appointment of an ‘outsider’ altogether is not something he believed to work in any way to solve Pakistan’s tax problems.