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Let’s not hope

/ 05:06 AM January 02, 2020

Let’s decide and act in 2020. Particularly Congress.

A New Year’s resolution Congress might want to consider acting on is to address the various bills the business community has identified, and pass them in the first few weeks of session.

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This may seem like favoring business over societal issues but it’s not. If business grows, jobs get created, better products and services are supplied. Everyone benefits and the much-ballyhooed inclusive growth happens.

Poverty goes when business grows.

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Initial focus must be on the tax bills. Far too much time has been wasted arguing over the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (Citira), the lowering of corporate income taxes, and rationalization of incentives. It has cost us dearly.

Foreign investment has gone to Vietnam (about $12 billion in the first eight months of 2019), not the Philippines (a mere $4.5 billion in the same period).

Uncertainty of the tax you’ll pay is certainly one of the reasons. So the tide of a dramatic decline in net foreign direct investment in 2019 can be reversed once the many contentious issues on Citira are finally resolved and the improvement in the country’s ease of doing business ranking improved.

Package 2+, or higher taxes on sin products to provide additional funding to the Universal Health Care Act, has been passed—albeit watered down.

It will soon be in place, although more financing will still be needed for the UHC to achieve its goal of making health care costs worry-free for every Filipino.

The other three in the tax reform program are equally important. Among them is real property valuation reform that will reduce property taxes from a staggering 20 percent to 6 percent, a much more reasonable figure.

But I want to emphasize again in the strongest possible terms that inheritance tax should be ZERO if the house remains in the family; the 6 percent should be paid only if it’s sold. It is extremely heartless to penalize a grieving family by charging them to stay in the family house regardless of value.

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A P200-million Forbes house has no more value than a P20,000 shanty if it’s not sold.

The other bills that need urgent attention are the following:

Emergency powers to declog Edsa and get traffic moving, and hasten the construction of major infrastructure projects in key cities throughout the country; amendments to the Public Service Act; build-operate-transfer law amendments; Freedom of Information Act; and amendments to the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.

The Ease of Doing Business (EODB) law which is being implemented by Arta (the Anti-Red Tape Authority), in conjunction with the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Information and Communications Technology, can be expected to have achieved some substantial improvement by year end.

Computerization of services and their simplification is beginning. Where problem will remain is in bringing local governments on board.

This 2020 needs to be the year of agriculture, a growth slower than population can’t be tolerated. Growth needs to be in the 4 percent range not 1 percent.

Let’s hope that the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund raised from unlimited rice imports will benefit farmers in 2020.

Removing the control of rice from the National Food Authority, a much-needed, long-overdue change, has resulted in some retail price reduction, but not enough as cartelized middlemen and inadequate logistical services reduce the gains that could be achieved.

They need to be fixed in 2020, although giving farmers an adequate return will remain a problem; and keeping them on the land a bigger one, as the youth seek more secure futures in the city.

How to treat private companies doing public service needs to be better defined. The controversy over the water companies shows that, at present, this isn’t so.

The return they make on their investments is not a higher cost to the consumer.

The more efficient construction and operation equalizes the cost. We get better service. Look at the toll roads compared to Edsa.

I’d like to see 2020 as the year the courts revolutionize, but sadly I don’t think I will.

The gumption to do it just isn’t there.

The one “simple” thing they could do is release from jail those who have been there longer than the penalty that would be imposed—all of them this month.

This 2020 will be the year of the environment.

Although the Philippines is a minor polluter, it needs to play its role. Serious attention should be given to a shift to renewable energy sources.

Greatly reducing the use of plastics and disposing of them responsibly can be done by everyone, if they’ve a mind to. That “mind” will need some government persuasion.

Filipinos, 93 percent of them, are hopeful of a better year. Let’s hope that hope becomes a reality though.

I wish you all a Happy New Year, and a successful coming one.

Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: anti-red tape, business, Ease of Doing Business, inclusive growth, Poverty, trade
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