THAT is the only message we can draw from Mar Roxas’ disappointing remarks on Monday, in which he confirmed that he fully supports President BS Aquino 3rd’s ignorant, anti-people rejection of broad-based calls to reduce income taxes.
Roxas even adopted his mentor’s annoying habit of trying to belittle a contrary position by asking mawkishly sarcastic questions. In the process he accused supporters of tax reform of “grandstanding.”
“What are the programs that will be sacrificed [if income taxes are reduced]?” Roxas asked. “How many youths will not have their classrooms? How many of our countrymen will not benefit from PhilHealth? How many will be slashed from the 4Ps [the Conditional Cash Transfer dole-out program]?”
Answer would be ZERO
For your information, Mr. Former Interior Secretary, the answer to those questions–if you had the best interests of our country at heart, if you had a sincere desire to convince the people that you are both qualified and worthy to lead them, if you had learned enough public finance policy from your studies–would be NONE. Because those questions are beyond absurd.
The estimated dip in government revenue due to an overhaul of the income tax system is about P30 billion per year. That is just a little less than one percent of next year’s P3.002 trillion national budget, and about 0.23 percent of GDP. Even if the overall improvement in individuals’ and businesses’ financial circumstances and spending power contributed precisely nothing in terms of larger VAT, tariff, and excise tax revenues – which they most certainly would – any minimally-competent executive would be able to successfully manage such a minor reduction in funding without compromising performance.
The call to reduce taxes has been repeatedly endorsed by every major business group in the country, and just last week no fewer than 18 such organizations issued a collective statement pointing out that the move would improve the competitiveness of Philippine business and its workforce, improve tax collection and compliance, and increase revenues by broadening the tax base and increasing the total amount earned through consumption taxes due to increased purchasing power. Support for tax reform is virtually unanimous in both houses of Congress, even among the most dedicated allies of the President. At this point, there is likely no one capable of rational thought among the 100 million-plus Filipino public who would agree that keeping an outdated, inefficient system featuring regressively high tax rates is the best thing for the country.
Dead wrong on tax reform
The President is dead wrong on tax reform, and by blindly adhering to the same ill-considered and unsympathetic position, so is Mr. Roxas.
This is perhaps why, among all of us Filipinos, he alone seems to be mystified that he remains unpopular despite having the advantages of being a scion of two influential families, a reasonably respectable political resume, and the full weight of the incumbent administration behind him. Support for tax reform has become a prerequisite to be considered for the presidency. If Mar Roxas cannot grasp that reality rather quickly, he should not be surprised to find himself still unemployed come next May.