You would think that a fortune teller would see it coming. But even they were surprised by the unpredictability of the ups and downs of the Bangladesh Budget 2019-20. Astrologers normally fear very little as their science involves far off planets that have circled for millions of years without actually hitting and injuring an astrologer. But this time, astrologers finally took a hit albeit with a raise in taxes.
Did they see it in their stars? One astrologer I asked told me this was ‘not quite clear’. As always, astrology is never quite clear much like the gassy, bloated, unsure planet known as Saturn. Those swirling shapes on the surface could easily represent a spaceship, a motorcyclist’s brain or Kim Kardashian’s behind.
It is a pretty safe bet that the planets are not going to impact your future. At least not since we found out there are no Martians on Mars. Without crazy, unpredictable laser-toting green men and women, Mars is just a rock that timely circles through space doing pretty much nothing. It does not even explode or emit scary chain e-mails demanding money. Which is safe to say it has no impact on what future events will befall us. The skies are safe.
But what about a career? Is any career safe? Can I attempt a career change to meet the demands of a price hike in just about everything? The smart thing to do is to prepare for something else other than writing nearly helpful advice articles. I told my wife about it and she suggested I become Thor before walking away leaving me wondering if she meant the Norse god or Chris Hemsworth. While this woman is largely unrealistic, it got me thinking what if I could become something else?
How about a social influencer? It seems easy. They post selfies on Instagram and pretend-find batteries in soup at restaurants. But almost always appear rich and influential. I could do that by posing against expensive cars that everybody can manage that. I can take it up a notch by posing on a helicopter. Which brings up the case of tax hike related to chartered flights and helicopters. What goes up must also be followed by taxes that go up. This spells doom for high flying social influencers (I could have been one). Rise in prices means helicopters stay grounded.
The social influencer’s fame is safe though if they follow the Russian Insta-celebs. There, young people pay a nominal fee to simply pose in front of or inside a grounded aircraft as if they own it. And the likes keep pouring in. Of course, they pay a hefty fee on their make up to look just right. Unfortunately, our Bangladeshi celebs will have to suffer quite a bit as cosmetics are seeing a hike as well. If you want to look good, you better pay the price.
Same with if you want to smell magnificent. Deodorant is going to be more expensive in this hot and humid country. People will stop buying deodorant to save up money for the massively pricey cigarettes. Cigarettes have seen an increase from Tk 105 to Tk 123 of which the government will get 65 percent as supplementary duty, 15 percent as VAT and one percent as health development surcharge. What it means is that most of my colleagues who have been saving up to buy a car or pay for their children’s education are now looking for small bank loans to fan their smoking habit.
Others have found that cigarette taxes have brought people closer. “We now go on smoke breaks, light just one cigarette and quickly pass it around so that not a single puff is wasted,” said one smoker friend in mid-huddle.
Casually chatting while a cigarette burns from the fingertips is a thing of the past. Now cigarette breaks are shorter too, much to the relief of office admins who can continue counting the hours their employees spend at office. Perhaps I could offer time-share cigarettes where people gather to take puffs at discounted rates.
Speaking of jobs, there has been no increase in income tax in general but more professions are being brought into the collection net. Matchmakers are not particularly happy as they consider themselves an NGO by offering services for humanity. What they do is make hopelessly single people and divorce lawyers happy. I know a matchmaker who I always thought was just a bored and nosy aunt. Turns out, all her free invites to biriyani feasts at hunting grounds known as weddings also bring in a tidy amount of cash. Potential brides and grooms are selected to be connected in the future like a human shaped Tetris game. She is extremely annoyed at the tax hike. She would be even more annoyed if she paid the taxes.
All is not doom and gloom though as coconut husks are seeing a drop. Which makes you wonder why coconut husks even have a tariff. Well, turns out a coconut is not just good for throwing at neighbours you really dislike. I have 12 coconut trees at home and I never knew they were a taxable money-making plant. All this time it was only costing me money by falling and scaring the dogs who then go around digging up my wife’s potted plants and once peeing on my shoes.
Turns out, coconut husk is great for scrubbing dirty objects like Dhaka University’s preference for driving their buses on the wrong side of the road. The husk ash can also be used as fertiliser. And it can be used to actually simply grow plants straight on the husk itself. That has the added benefit of plants not being affected by typical soil-based pests and dogs. All of which makes it a big business. And all this time I was throwing money in the form of old coconuts at my annoying neighbours.
Every day you learn something new and not always is it useful as fertiliser. What is useful though is knowing taxes on handmade confectioneries is lower, meaning more of your mullah stays in your pockets. Of course, do wash hands but you know those just became costlier so in the end, we are back where we started—hoping not to get hit by Mars.
Ehsanur Raza Ronny is a confused dad, all round car guy, model car builder and cartoonist. He is also Editor of Shift (automobiles), Bytes (technology) and Next Step (career) for The Daily Star.