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NARA: hardwood gone soft?

Persistent budget deficits traceable to a falling tax effort since 1998
have focused attention on the need to reform tax administration in the Philippines. At the moment, there are a number of proposals to reform tax administration. These include House Bills 5054; 5465, 5546, and Senate Bill 2463.

The template for most of these bills is from the original bill HB 5054,
also known as the “IRMA bill” (since it sought to create an “Internal
Revenue Management Authority” while abolishing the Bureau of Internal Revenue). This has since been modified, most preeminently by HB 5465 or the “NARA” proposal (standing for the “National Authority for Revenue Administration”).

Reviving development economics

It would be a big boost to the new development economics if the
economics is blended in with the social, cultural, political and
institutional setting and environment, so that the possibilities for
change and development are clearly defined. In this respect, we need to interact with political science, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and the legal profession.

A corollary to this is that we shouldn’t fall into the neoclassical
trap of distinguishing markets with everything else, so that we become anti-market in the real sense of not wanting to improve the
commodities, labor and capital markets of Third World countries. Thus we see some of us resisting China’s or Vietnam’s use of better economic incentives on the grounds that they are “market” devices.

Uncertainty and danger

War is looming. And like it or not, the Philippines is not spared. The
Economist, which incidentally is pro-war, believes that the country
will suffer heavily once the full-blown war in Iraq erupts.

Not surprisingly, the exchange rate has become volatile, with the peso vis-a-vis the dollar reaching a two-year low. The Philippine currency is not at all overvalued, if we consider the surprisingly sustained low inflation rate. The depreciation is simply an indicator of the investors’ nervousness amidst the imminent war in Iraq.

Reforming the port sector

In its drive to be globally competitive, the government should spare no effort in upgrading the country’s port services and facilities. Among the areas it should take a closer look at are alternative and more efficient modes and routes of sea transport as well as the need to redefine the functions of the port authority.

Time to move on from number coding

Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman and Public Works Secretary Bayani Fernando beat me to the draw.

Ever since he instituted the new traffic scheme that is now in force
along EDSA and undertook to sweep the vendors off the sidewalks of
Metro Manila, I had been considering writing a column calling for the
lifting of the Unified Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP). But while I was hemming and hawing about it, Mr. Fernando jumped the gun on me and did it, even if only on a trial basis and with Makati City and, later, Mandaluyong City exempted. He is getting flak for it, though.

Power sector reform

In the 1990s, fundamental power sector restructuring swept developing countries around the world. In a workshop held in Bangkok in October 2002, activists from South, Southeast and East Asia shared their country experiences in power reforms.

These are stories with the same plots and progression. They are about increasing the role and power of foreign corporate interest in the provision of a very critical public utility. They start with the
introduction of various schemes for private sector participation in the
early 1990s, such as service contracts, management contracts, concessions and build-operate-transfer (BOT) contracts and their
numerous variants.