The Americans are now in a bind
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2014 - 12:00am

Do you recall the saying that the enemy of my enemy is my friend? That seems to be what is happening to the United States and the Middle East these days. Relations have gotten so convoluted that we don’t even know which side everyone is truly on and that only makes relations that much more tense and unstable.

Just recently Iran’s foreign minister ruled out cooperating with the United States in helping Iraq fight Islamic State militants, and said that the terrorist group poses a much bigger global threat than we might all understand, and it requires new thinking to eradicate it.

Mohammed Javad Zarif said last week that they had serious doubts about what the US is willing to do when it comes to the menace from the IS group as a whole and not just picking and choosing when it comes to confrontation like they do in Iraq. Furthermore, Zarif said that the US also couldn’t fight both the ISIS and the Syrian government in Damascus together, which leads to even more doubts about how they truly plan to make a difference. Plus, currently the US is carrying out air strikes and Zarif said that ISIS would not be eradicated through aerial bombardment alone.

Overall, everyone is pretty much stuck in an unknown limbo wondering what real steps can be made against this growing threat. Zarif has been very vocal about his stand on the situation. He made it a point to remind the world that ISIS is a very mobile organization and the threat is not only against a single community nor against a single religion. It is a threat against the entire world. It will not be confined to Syria or Iraq but it will affect the globe, and this will happen sooner rather than later.

In that aspect I truly believe he is right. While the threat may currently be in Iraq and Syria, the message of ISIS is already crossing borders faster than the world can deal with it. Stories have even gone viral about varying recruitment tactics as well as people (including young men and women) making their way across borders to join the ISIS ranks. There is even news and rumors here about recruiting among Muslims in the Philippines. It may only be a matter of time before the threat is truly all over the world.

I guess only time will tell what the global community may eventually have to do to truly deal with the threat. President Barack Obama has reiterated his stand of no ground troops in Iraq and that US support will be limited to aerial strikes only. His former defense secretary, however, voiced his skepticism about this policy achieving their intended goal. Robert Gates, along with other world leaders, believes that the US can’t be successful against the ISIS strictly from the air. Much of that depends on the Iraqi forces or the Peshmerga. The only conclusion is that for any real success to be achieved boots need to be on the ground.

Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. World politics and global relations enter a gray zone in this aspect because foreign countries still want to respect Iraq’s right to decide for themselves while still regulating what could very well be a growing serious global threat.

Understandably though, America also needs to be very careful. They are answering the call for help as they always do, but they’ve already learned through past experience that sometimes they can’t win these fights on foreign soil so far away from home. I’m sure they still very vividly remember what happened in Vietnam when they went home with their tails between their legs with thousands injured and losing 53,000 lives whose names are enshrined in the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

I can’t predict or call what the absolute right course of action would be in this instance. The only thing I know for sure is that something has to be done and be done soon.

*   *   *

I have to admit, it is refreshing to hear ideas like that of Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara calling on the BIR to simplify the current tax system to encourage Filipinos – most especially self-employed individuals to pay their taxes correctly and on time. He claimed that the current tax system is much too complicated for the average Filipino entrepreneur who is constantly playing catch-up with the bigger corporations.

I can completely get behind this proposal just like I fully support his call for tax reform. Like many other things in the Philippines we don’t try to find a solution for a problem at its root but instead look for easy – usually far more painful – solutions for the meantime. While these solutions may work for now, they don’t solve the actual problem. Like the BIR crackdown employed because the BIR claims that they are not collecting their tax targets. Hence they are coming down hard on what they feel are tax evading professions.

Again, while this may work initially, it still does not solve the problem. At the end of the day the problem is still the current tax system in its entirety. It’s very possible that some entrepreneurs are not paying their proper taxes simply because they don’t know how to navigate the complicated tax system. The nationwide BIR public information campaign on the basic steps is not even near enough. “Register, File, and Pay” may sound simple enough, but in reality the process is far more complicated with a lot more red tape.

According to Sen. Angara, what we need to do is “incentivize” taxpayers and make it easy for them to pay their taxes. This will widen the tax base. He further reiterated that a “one tax system fits all” is just not working and will not work for the country. I completely agree with this line of thought. After all, I can’t see how a single tax system for multinational multi-billion companies and smaller businesses and entrepreneurs would work.

It hardly seems fair to require the same things from millionaire CEOs that you will require from sari-sari store owners and cigarette vendors. Even the very small miniscule slice that is the middle class may not even be able to afford an accountant or lawyer to do their financial statements and are left completely unaware of how to navigate the process. This confusion is actually the opening where corruption can come in with unscrupulous individuals offering to help expedite the process for a “fee.”

At the end of the day, I think citizens understand the concept of why they need to pay their taxes. However, if it were to become possible to collect a truly fair amount from each, based on their job and income bracket, and make it easier to comply and pay, I think BIR would see a really positive change in how people pay their taxes.

ANGARA EVEN IRAQ AND SYRIA ISLAMIC STATE MOHAMMED JAVAD ZARIF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA ROBERT GATES TAX THREAT ZARIF
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