The raging debate since the first lockdown has been about social amelioration. Having first-hand experience in government at the local government unit (LGU) level, I’ve seen the inefficiencies in its operations and the policy disconnect unless the two top officials work together for the benefit of their constituents. Tax the rich to give to the poor is the Robin Hood approach. The question is, what happens after the doleouts have been spent?
Inquirer columnist Winnie Monsod makes lots of recommendations, none of which answer that simple question…
How can the government make up for its errors of omission? It can start by imposing a one-off (meaning, one-time only) wealth tax on the Filipinos who obviously benefited while everybody else was suffering. My past two columns have touched on this. From just the 17 Filipino dollar-billionaires in the Forbes list, whose wealth as of April this year amounted to P2.2 trillion, the government, assuming it imposes a 1 percent tax on wealth above P1 billion, would get over P20 billion.
In the case of small- to medium-scale enterprises (SMSEs), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has been bandying about access to loans but the red tape involved is a nightmare. It is easier to borrow from your neighborhood Indian but alas the Indians have stopped lending because of the pandemic also. What’s one to do? Among the fastfood companies, it’s only the parent of KFC, which is the Ramcar Group, that has been agile enough. Stores have been shut down. In their place are food trucks or fixed take-out stores located strategically in densely populated communities which fits their target market. This is all in an effort to maintain their sales after the first lockdown which caused heavy losses.
Government is caught in a bind because of the bureaucratic inefficiencies. This is true for both the national and local level. This means that the rollout of everything from social amelioration to vaccination is always beset by issues. Monsod points out this no-brainer but, predictably as usual, suggests that presidents are solely responsible for success or failure at instituting profound lasting reforms in a vast landscape of bureaucratic dysfunction within just six years…
The wastefulness, the inefficiency of government, however, is another issue altogether. But didn’t President Duterte himself said he would address this and solve it from Day 1 of his presidency? I guess it was just another of his infamous jokes.
It’s become a joke because all really one can do is laugh. For example, a property which I brokered the sale of can’t be finalized because the transfer of the title hasn’t been effected by the Land Registration Authority (LRA). The taxes have been paid and the documents submitted last February 26. Tracking it on the LRA website shows that the title is uploading. This is the third to the last step. Printing and releasing are next. In the meantime, the extension of the letter of guarantee issued by the bank is set to expire on July 1. Both the Seller and the Buyer are anxious because the unnecessary delay has brought on fears that the bank might not agree to a second extension given the prevailing economic environment.
In my best layman’s judgment solely based on experience, 2021 is a write-off as far as economic recovery is concerned. Why? There are more contagious variants. Even developed countries are having difficulty containing surges. Proof of this are Singapore and Japan. Our vaccination rate is dependent on availability. Vaccine nationalism is real. The initial skepticism about the Russian and Chinese jabs have gone away for the simple reason that the West cornered vaccine supplies.
The road to economic recovery requires that 70% of the population is vaccinated. What I would suggest is before we soak the rich, we get our acts together first. The rich would be willing to pay additional taxes if they can see where the monies will go. I’m not a fan of the doleouts as advocated by the opposition, even before the pandemic struck. The monies are better spent reconfiguring for the new normal because Covid is not going to go away even after herd immunity is reached. Workers need to be able to go to work. Those who are infected need treatment. Both the government and the private sector need to digitize in order for the economy to function. The education sector also needs assistance. The SUCs and K-12 public schools are going to be swamped with transferrees again when the current school year ends.
As far as the political environment goes, the Opposition has been going at President Rodrigo Duterte’s throat for the past five years. They have gotten nowhere trying to oust him. The May 2022 election is a year away. They should adhere to the democratic process and start getting their act together. Let’s not forget that the people are the ultimate judges of government performance. The Opposition would’ve fared better with the public if they were constructive fiscalizers of the administration. If they lose in 2022, they only have themselves to blame for being insular and existent in their own alternative parallel reality universe.