Freedom of Information (FOI) advocate and Right to Know, Right Now! convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan and Action for Economic Reforms (AER) President Jessica Cantos wrote Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, urging President Aquino to include FOI, cigarette tax reform, and fiscal incentives rationalization bills in the President’s legislative agenda.

Some of the highlights of the letter:

  • The President’s legislative agenda should address binding constraints to long term growth, which include governance problems (corruption-related problems) and low tax effort.
  • Poor tax effort has threatened macroeconomic stability and has resulted in huge financing gaps for social and economic services.
  • Corruption weakens investor confidence since corruption increase transaction costs and inevitably results in an unfair playing field. It results in wasted resources that could have gone to infrastructure and programs that can buoy both domestic and foreign investment.
  • Freedom of Information (FOI) Act and fiscal reforms – restructuring the excise tax on cigarettes and fiscal incentives rationalization—will substantially address the two binding constraints.
  • FOI key in anti-corruption fight: By providing a systematic way by which media and ordinary citizens can access government information and prescribing a disclosure policy, an FOI law will shed light on shady deals and corrupt officials.
  • Cigarette tax will help plug the deficit and save lives: Reforming the excise tax is a double win for the country. First, it will help lower the country’s smoking prevalence rate, save lives, and discourage our children from lighting their first cigarette. At the same time, studies show that these reforms will substantially boost revenues, up to about PhP25 billion in the first year of implementation alone.

To see the full text of the letter, please click here.