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Tax reform, now!

By: Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye

The good news last week was that our economy grew 6.5 per cent in the second quarter. Question is: how do we sustain, even accelerate, the momentum?

Quite a few economists think that we should grow at least 7 per cent consistently year in, year out, in this generation. If this is achieved, we will be in a position to reduce poverty dramatically.

But how can we really move ahead if we don’t build?

How can me build, if we don’t have the funds?

How can we have funds if we don’t raise taxes? (Of course, the alternative is to borrow.)

How can we raise taxes, if we don’t sacrifice?

Raising taxes is a tough sell. But like it or not, it is necessary.

The reality is there is no free lunch.

Members of the Lower House had no problem approving the tax reform bill (the first of several reform packages) in no time.

Senators on the other hand, are still trying to sort out the provisions which are claimed to be “anti-poor”. But are these measures, like additional taxes on sugared beverages, really anti-poor? From my end, they are more like pro-health.

Whatever the case, a decision on the proposed tax reform package has to be made now. Not tomorrow. Not next week.

Sayang. We are incurring much opportunity loss.

Passing the tax reform package, however, is only half the solution. We have to make sure that we also improve tax collection efficiency.

We can start by making it easy for taxpayers to pay, eg., by simplifying our tax forms.

An improvement in public perception of our collection agencies will also do wonders. Our revenue and customs collectors must not only be honest and competent. They must also be perceived as honest and competent.

But at the end of the day, what will matter is how the funds are actually used. Are they used for the purposes intended? How much of public money is lost due to corruption? Is public money spent in full and on time?

How often have we heard of “low absorptive capacity” of front-line agencies leading to their failure to spend their budgets.

Here is where good governance comes into play. One aspect of good governance manifests itself in, among others, zero or mininal corruption, good planning (no “analysis paralysis”) and timely execution. And by execution, I don’t mean EJK.

‘Martial Law’ in Pampanga
My kasambahay informed me the she failed to go to the market and she asked if we could just order take-out food for dinner. Automatically, I said “yes”.

In cases like this, our “go to” store is Mini Stop, just a few floors down from where my wife Mira and I stay.

Then I resumed watching news on TV.

The news anchor reported that soldiers were about to be deployed to help cull several hundred thousands of Avian flu-affected chickens, ducks and other fowls in San Luis, Pampanga.

“Martial law” had just been declared in San Luis and immediate environs!

It was explained that DA Secretary Manny Piñol had to call on the army because the civilians were just not enough to deal with the infected fowls.

Moreover, the culling process was tedious. It involved wringing the necks of the chickens. The normal procedure of slitting the throat is not done to avoid spillage of chicken blood which could be contaminated.

It was also explained that the soldiers would be inoculated, briefed and properly equipped with protective clothing before they are deployed.

Then the anchor turned to other news.

Minutes later, my kasambahay announced that dinner was ready. She had bought freshly-cooked, crispy chicken legs from Mini Stop.

I momentarily hesitated, still trying to digest what was reported in the news.

But then, I said to myself, what the heck. This reputable giant convenience store chain would know better to source their chicken other than from safe suppliers.
I had a hearty meal.

Uber the rainbow
Why do I get the feeling that in the current Uber-LTFRB controversy, public opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of Uber?

As the government agency mandated to regulate public transport, LTFRB should the one praised for supposedly doing its duty and maintaining discipline in the transport sector.

But LTFRB gets brickbats from so many directions even from honorable members of the senate, Grace Poe, among them.

An Uber regular, whom I know, had this to say.

“Uber is doing a good job of providing fast, reliable, convenient and safe transport for commuters like me. I feel safe taking Uber because my travel details are immediately communicated home. I left my brand new iphone in an Uber and I got it back in no time. Drivers are generally more courteous and friendly. No hassle in paying my fare because I can just charge it to my credit card. That way, I can easily keep track of my expenses.”

Perhaps, this should serve as a friendly reminder to LTFRB: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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