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Opinion

Win-win, not lose-lose

SINGKIT - Doreen G. Yu - The Philippine Star

The loudest clamor hereabouts these days is for the suspension of excise taxes on fuel products as global oil prices go crazy high. The prediction - or threat - is that a liter of gas may cost P100 in the not too distant future. And with no solution in sight to the Ukraine-Russia situation, P100 is looking like an ominous possibility rather than a wild threat.

Economists and the learned ones thumb down the excise tax suspension, saying it will not really offer that much of a relief since excise taxes are “just” P10 for gas and P6 for diesel, according to the runaway TRAIN law. At the average of P70 per liter today, the tax is just 14.29 percent; if it goes up to P100, it’s just 10 percent. For that relief, government stands to lose P45 billion over six months, which is the called for period of suspension.

Government needs all the money it can get hold of to give fuel subsidies, ayuda, buy vaccines, build build build roads and hospitals and, most important, service our national debt, now over P12 trillion. If we don’t take care of that last item, we risk losing credit worthiness and finding down the line that it will cost us more to borrow money for vital government services.

I’m neither an economist nor learned, but from where I stand on the sidewalk, if more and more of what I make each month goes to fuel and food and electricity, there will be less and less for me to spend on things that will revive the economy under Alert Level 1 (or even Level 0) – go shopping, eat out, even go to the beach. Instead of restaurants or even fast food joints, perhaps Aling Josie’s or

Mang Ben’s ulam sold out of kalderos will do for lunch. It’s good business for Aling Josie and Mang Ben, but isn’t that survival economics instead of revival economics?

There has to be a workable compromise in there somewhere. Rep. Joey Salceda, the resident economist of the House, has proposed suspending excise taxes on all fuel products except premium gasoline. That should answer the argument of the learned ones that suspending fuel taxes will just benefit the rich who have cars and will only encourage them to drive more. Maybe the learned ones use company or government vehicles for which they don’t have to pay for fuel, but for the jeepney, taxi, UV Express drivers, delivery riders and even working peasants like me, if gas drops by P10 from the current P70, I won’t be taking joyrides anytime soon.

Between the populist and the economist views there is a compromise that can be a win-win – at least not a lose-lose which seems to be what we’re faced with – solution for the general population. We just need the lawmakers, the economists, the learned ones to get together and work it out. And for the candidates to just please shut up.H

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