Legislation not impeachment
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - March 30, 2017 - 12:00am

The 18th Congress under the present administration will be ending its first session in approximately two months before it reconvene for the next session on the first week of July. With so little time left, it would be deal if our senators and congressmen could focus on passing major legislation instead of spending more time on investigations and impeachment talks.

It is obvious that the present congress has also been disrupted by organizational changes regarding committee chairs. It is in the committees that the bulk of the actual work of legislation is done. The rigodon of committee chairs means that new committee chairs will have to start all over again with hearings and research.

One example of a major legislation that has not been acted upon is the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program proposed by Finance Secretary Dominguez. The proposal will reduce corporate taxes to make the Philippines more competitive, in terms of taxes, with our ASEAN neighbours. The personal tax laws have ceased to become truly fair for those in the lower and middle classes. The tax rate for billionaires are essentially the same as middle class households. This is because the tax brackets have not been adjusted to keep up with the reduction in the value of the peso.

There is no sense in taxing a person who earns
P500,000 a year or approximately P40,000 a month with the same rate as a multimillionaire. Half a million pesos a year may have been a lucrative income decades ago. But, today the same amount barely allows a family of four to live a decent life.

Tax Reform is a highly complicated legislation. There are proposals for reducing inheritance taxes, increasing tax on luxury cars and oil products and expanding coverage of sin taxes. There have even been proposals for controversial issues like removing the discounts for senior citizens and instituting some form of wealth tax.

The Senators and Congressmen should also seriously look into repealing tax laws that are actually provide loopholes for tax evasion and tax incentives that no longer serve the purpose of increasing investments. Unfortunately, it seems that more attention has been paid by our senators and congressmen discussing impeachment and political patronage that to these legislation.

Last January 15, the 15 most prominent business chambers in the country submitted a letter to the Office of the President outlining several reform measures that Congress should also seriously review. Aside from the Comprehensive Tax Reform Package, the list includes amendments to the BOT Law, Corporate Code, Public Service Act, Water Reform Service Act and Retail Trade Act. The proposed amendments to the Corporate Code are intended to make it easier to form corporations that intend to engage in business.

All these proposals are intended to increase investments and generate jobs. The Bank Secrecy laws in the Philippines also need to be thoroughly overhauled by Congress. We are now becoming known as a major money laundering center in this part of the world.

There is also a need to address the removal of foreign equity restrictions to allow more foreign investments into the Philippines. It is noticeable that we are lagging way behind our major ASEAN neighbours, including Vietnam and Indonesia, in attracting foreign direct investments.

There will be elections in 2019 for congressmen, half of the Senate and all local officials. This means that by the middle of 2018, political attention will be diverted towards the election. With this session nearly finished, the window for opportunity for major legislation is already narrowing.

The Senators and Congressmen cannot afford to waste time on more investigations, political grandstanding or trying to improve their linguistic skills on the floor of the Senate. There is also no logical reason to waste time on any impeachment maneuverings – either against Duterte or Robredo.

It is time for our legislators to focus on their less glamorous task; but, which is the sole purpose for their existence – legislation.

Global Uncertainty Index

In a recent talk at the Management Association of the Philippines, Central Bank Governor Tetangco said that strong macroeconomic fundamentals; high business and consumer confidence; a stable banking system; and, robust dollar remittances will result in maintaining an economic growth of 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent this year. He also expects unemployment to go down to around the 5 percent unemployment level; and, inflation to remain steady at around 2 percent annual rate.

In the same talk, economist Ciel Habito projected that the peso: dollar rate will remain between P50 to P52 for the rest of the year. He added that the Philippine advantage lies in its demographic “sweet spot” which means a young population compared to an aging population in most of the world. However, he warned that one third of Filipino children are “stunted” and this may result in a generation where a third of its population will be mediocre.

Governor Tetangco, however, warned that the world is facing tremendous uncertainty in economic policy caused by rise in protectionism and populist economic policies. He quoted the Global Policy Uncertainty Index which currently shows that the level of global uncertainty is the highest it has been since the beginning of the period analyzed at the end of 1996.

It would be advisable for government and business decision makers to include, in their frameworks, economic uncertainty in the formulation and implementation of their strategic plans.

Summer creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout for Kids & Teens on April 1, 8, 22, 29, May 13, 20, 27 and June 3 (1:30 p.m.-3 p.m.). Wonder of Words Workshop (6 sessions) on May 8, 10, 12, 15, 17 and 19 (1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. for 8-12 years old/4-6 p.m. for 13-17 years old). Classes at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street. For registration and fee details text 0917-6240196 or email writethingsph@gmail.com.

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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