Capital suggestion - Dr Farrukh Saleem - Sunday, July 25, 2010

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On July 18, I was at the PIA check-in counter at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport intending to board flight PK 784 bound for Islamabad’s Benazir Bhutto International Airport. The PIA staff asked me to provide them with the credit card on which I had bought the ticket. I tried to explain to them that the original credit card was upgraded by RBS, the issuer, and that I no longer had the card on which the ticket was bought (but I did provide them with the new, upgraded card). I was refused boarding. Lucky me because my brother-in-law works for the bank and I had him confirm to the PIA staff that my card had been upgraded.

Once onboard, I shook hands with Javed Khan (not his real name), a resident of Mardan, sitting right next to me. And then began the story of a genuine welfare state. Javed, trained an engineer at the University of Peshawar, told me that the government of Canada granted him permanent resident status some five months ago. Javed tells me that he along with his wife and three minor children immediately flew to Toronto and then moved to Mississauga, a Toronto suburb.

Javed had four dependents and no job. Imagine; five Pakistanis 10,951 kilometres away from Mardan and the sole earner without a job. Imagine; five Pakistanis in a city which was incorporated in 1974, a city 27 years younger than the homeland they had left behind.

For Javed that’s when the welfare state kicked in. First, to help out the minor children. Imagine; the first to help out Javed’s children was the federal government with its Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB), a “tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help them with the cost of raising children under age 18.” The basic benefit is $112.33 a month for each child under age 18. Then there is a supplement of $7.83 a month for each additional child.

The federal government also funds the National Child Benefit Supplement (NCBS). One-child family gets $174 a month. Two-child family gets $154 a month. Three-child family gets $146 a month. For Javed next comes the (provincial) government of Ontario with its Ontario Child Benefit (OCB) in the amount of $250 per month for each child under the age of 18.

Imagine; the welfare state has an Automated Benefits Application which is a partnership between the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and the Vital Statistics Agency (VSA) whereby as soon a birth is registered with the VSA the CRA comes into action. The CRA actually recommends families to enrol for a direct bank deposit “prior to giving birth to your child in order to reduce delays in receiving your payments.”

On July 1, the eight per cent Ontario Sales Tax and the five percent GST were combined into a single 13 per cent value-added sales tax. But look what the welfare state did for families earning less than $160,000 a year: “As part of the sales tax reform, cash payments will be provided to Ontario tax filers in each of June and December 2010 and June 2011.” Eligible families will receive three payments totalling $1,000 and eligible individuals would get three payments totalling $300.

With the Canada Child Tax Benefit, the National Child Benefit Supplement and the Ontario Child Benefit Javed rented out a basement for $850 a month with at least $800 a month left for groceries. Last month, Javed found a job that pays $15 an hour.

Remember, Javed is a mechanical engineer but most of what the University of Peshawar taught Javed is not recognised in his adopted homeland. Javed wants to work in Canada and Javed wants to work as an engineer. Imagine; the Ontario Student Assistance Programme (OSAP) has informed Javed that by August he would become eligible for a $36,000 grant to upgrade his engineering credentials.

Imagine; 50 million Pakistani children are food insecure and 50 per cent of all child deaths are attributed to poor nutrition while our leaders remain long on hair, short on brain.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email:

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