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Turning Crisis into Opportunity

Several months have passed since the media first bannered the warningof the 11 faculty members of University of the Philippines School ofEconomics (UPSECON) about a looming economic catastrophe in the eventthat a worsening fiscal crisis is not arrested. The good news is that everyone, from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) tothe man on the street, is aware of the gravity of the problem. But the bad news is that the administration has not yet acteddecisively on the problem. Its actions to date are far from reassuring.

Get the best out of the crisis debate

{mosimage}The fiscal crisis has generated a wide range of responses. The GloriaMacapagal Arroyo (GMA) administration initially packaged its revenuestrategy by stringing together eight revenue measures, which thePresident outlined in her State of the Nation Address (SONA). In apaper published by BusinessWorld (Yellow Pad column, Aug. 9 2004), Icriticized the revenue package of eight measures for being half-bakedand ill-conceived.

This package also served as a backdrop, or a context, of the paperauthored by the 11 faculty members of the University of the Philippines(UP) School of Economics (or the UP 11) titled “The Deepening Crisis:The Real Score and Deficits and the Public Debt.”

The UP 11 paper – notwithstanding its clear critique of government’seconomic, including fiscal, policy – was kind and gentle in itstreatment of GMA. This, at first glance, was surprising, consideringthat some of the coauthors are known for their outspoken,no-holds-barred criticisms (they call a spade a spade, to borrow SolitaC, Monsod’s favorite line). But a constructive paper, with a mild tone,was meant to get GMA to listen. Call it a benign tactical approach; itnevertheless paid off in moving GMA to declare a fiscal crisis and inproducing a sustained, vigorous debate on the issue.

Ill-conceived, half-baked tax policy won’t do

“The time for change is well past due. This time, let me say, let’sjust do it.” This is the most cited, most applauded phrase of GloriaMacapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) first State of the Nation Address (SONA) asthe 14th President of the Philippines.

Yet, days have passed, and she has wasted precious time in her attemptsto tackle the most serious problem—the fiscal deficit and the swellingpublic sector debt.

An Alternative View on Investment Climate

The latest buzzword in the multilateral agency scene, particularly the
World Bank, is “investment climate.” In March 2001, then Chief
Economist of the Bank, Nicholas Stern, identified the task of improving
investment climate as “the central challenge in reaping benefits from
globalization.” By the next year, the Bank, through its Private Sector
Development Strategy program, embarked on surveys and assessments of
investment climate conditions in most countries. Today, the World Bank
is set to release the World Development Report 2005, (WDR2005)
preliminarily entitled “A Better Investment Climate – For Everyone,” by September 2004.

Thinking of Takenaka and the others

Certain opinions are misplaced regarding certain types of people and
their capacity for decision making and implementation. At least from
the point of view of some “accomplished” individuals in business and
government, there is a tendency to underestimate, on a wholesale-basis, people from the academe.

BIR reforms: welcome success story for 2003

The much-maligned Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is fashioning a newimage: that of a professional, efficient, transparent and innovativeinstitution. This image is becoming a reality under the leadership ofCommissioner Guillermo Parayno, Jr. The good news – amid all theuncertainty, jitters, and antagonism in the pre-election period – isthat BIR achieved its collection target for 2003.