Last June 24, Internal Revenue commissioner Rene Banez presented his Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) reform program to some members of the NGO community. The title of his presentation – “The BIR Transformation: Plugging the Leaks in Tax Administration” – captures the focus of his reform agenda. It embodies a realization that defects in tax administration account for a large part of BIR’s poor revenue performance. His presentation also commits to introduce major organizational changes.
A more aggressive but doable plan for recovery and for the long run
must be presented to the public. The Arroyo government must show it is wiser and more competent to achieve the goal of reducing poverty and raising the people’s well-being than previous administrations. Its short-term and long-term plans must be more ambitious and at the same time pragmatic and operational. It must have a definite focus and effective strategies.
In his syndicated column titled “Reckonings,” Paul Krugman quoted the now-classic statement of Gordon Gekko, the cunning corporate raider in the movie Wall Street: “Greed is good. Greed works, greed is right…and greed, mark my words, will save not only Teldar paper but the other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.”
That statement is real-world stuff. Wisely unstated (as befits shrewd
business), such greed lies at the core of the behavior of many corporate executives who aggressively pursue super-profits for themselves and for the companies they run. Although Gekko’s line has punch and has become very quotable, its message is not new. It merely echoes a basic creed of liberal economics that the “unrestrained rivalry of egotism” is good not only for the individual but for society as well.
The Fundamental Theorems of Welfare Economics state that a private property, perfectly competitive free market will maximize private and social welfare, and will result in an efficient allocation of resources through competition. Furthermore, if government decides to intervene in the market where no imperfections exist, deadweight losses will arise and will make government vulnerable to capture and corruption. These serve as the theoretical underpinnings of what has come to be known as the Washington Consensus – privatize, liberalize, deregulate.
The intentions of current rice price policies in the Philippines are
eminently laudable. But there is a vast gulf between policy intentions
and actual effects. For the past 30 years, the National Food Authority (NFA) has implemented the country’s rice price strategy – one often described as: “Buy high, store long, sell low.” Per Presidential Decree 4 (1972), only NFA may import or export rice. Given this monopoly, the NFA builds up rice stocks by importing milled rice or procuring paddy (unhusked rice or palay) from local farmers.
Recently, University of South Carolina professor Donald Weatherbee
delivered a lecture at De La Salle University regarding US-Southeast
Asian relations in the post 9-11 security environment. During the open forum that commenced, a Philippine foreign ministry official asked about the visitor’s views on the roots of terrorism after emphasizing that the current administration recognizes the link between the war on terrorism and the war on poverty. From the ensuing discussion, I gathered that many of our distinguished colleagues and professors share a similar view about poverty and terrorism.