PPP vs. ODA

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last week.

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Among the important characteristics of the user-pay principle is that only those who use the service or facility will pay for its construction and maintenance while the rest of the population — who won’t use them — will be spared of such cost. This characteristic is embedded in the public-private partnership (PPP) mode of construction, procurement, and maintenance of big infrastructure projects.

In contrast, projects that are funded through the annual general appropriations act (GAA) and official development assistance (ODA) are under all-taxpayers-pay principle. More specifically, GAA are paid by current taxpayers while ODA are to be paid by future taxpayers.

Last month, the government through the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has terminated the PPP mode of Development, Operations and Maintenance for five regional airport projects — New Bohol [Panglao], Davao, Iloilo, Laguindingan and Bacolod-Silay. These five projects are projected to have a total cost of P108 billion.

There are other projects that suffered from policy reversals from PPP to ODA-funding, like the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon, and the PNR South Railway project.

Since late 2016, the Duterte administration has announced that it will avoid PPP modes whenever possible and shift to government funding via GAA or ODA or a mixture of both. The reason given is that it will be faster and cheaper to build via government funding. This will cover mostly the P8-trillion infrastructure programs then auction off the operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts to the private sector.

Recall that in my previous piece, the DOTr said during the BusinessWorld Economic Forum last May 19 that these four big projects will all be ODA-funded:

  1. PNR North Railway (Manila-Clark), Q4 2017 — Q4 2021, P255B.
  2. PNR South Railway (Manila-Bicol), Q3 2018 — 2021, P270B.
  3. Mega-Manila subway (Phase 1, QC-Taguig), Q4 2019 — 2024, P225B.
  4. Edsa-Central Corridor Bus Rapid Transit BRT, Q1 2019 — Q1 2021, P38B.

Now the basic question — is it true that GAA or ODA-funded are more efficient, faster, and cheaper to build, than PPP-funded projects?

In the same BusinessWorld Economic Forum last May 19, one of the speakers was Oliver Tan, Chief Financial Officer of Megawide Construction Corp. He showed two tables comparing the construction of two airports in the Visayas, the New Iloilo and expanded Mactan-Cebu airports (see table).

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Mactan Cebu airport terminal — whose awarding was delayed for 18 months but will still be completed on time — is almost five times the size of the New Iloilo airport and yet construction time is almost half that of the latter. The Cebu airport serves 17 international destinations, 27 domestic destinations, by 20 partner airlines. When this new terminal is finished middle of 2018, passengers are projected to enjoy these benefits: check in time will be reduced from 10.5 minutes to 6.85 minutes; getting luggage from 11 to 6.5 minutes; while retail outlets will rise from 17 to 28 and dining options from 17 to 31.

From this example alone, it is NOT true that burdening all taxpayers with government-implemented infra projects is more beneficial to the public.

There are inherent problems and risks to the public if GAA- and ODA-funding become the dominant mode in building important infrastructure projects.

One, a government administration is short term, limited to only six years term and thus, it has little political or corporate brand to build and protect, it can worry less of what the people would say after its term has ended especially if the project is later discovered to be of inferior quality and tainted with corruption. In contrast, a corporation has a brand to protect and it would not risk this brand that has been built for decades to be tainted with corruption and wastes.

Two, ODA funding normally have tight strings attached, like a China-ODA would mean only Chinese contractors, suppliers, managers, and even workers would do the work. Local firms would be relegated to O&M and their purchase of equipment and supplies might be constrained by the project specifications so that they will be forced to source these from China again.

Three, there are recently finished and ongoing PPP projects that are yielding positive results, like the Mactan-Cebu Airport terminal building, NAIA Expressway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx), school buildings, and automated fare collection system for the trains. These gains cannot simply be dismissed as inferior to government-promised better infra, especially under the environment of bad governance culture in the country.

Four, the user-pay principle means that a tollway or an airport in northern Luzon will be paid only by those who frequently use those facilities. So the people and taxpayers in southern Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao who seldom or do not use these facilities will be spared of servicing the cost of construction and O&M.

201706014008dThe shift from PPP to GAA and ODA funding of the build-build-build plan of Dutertenomics does not bode well for Filipinos.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET, both members of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

Dissecting Dutertenomics’ overspending plan

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last Tuesday.

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During the BusinessWorld Economic Forum held last May 19, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno showed two interesting charts: (1) sustained overspending and borrowings, budget deficit/GDP ratio from -0.9% in 2015 to -2.7% in 2016 then -3.0% from 2017-2022. And yet (2) debt/GDP ratio was expected to decline from 44.8% in 2015 to 40.2% in 2017 and further down to 36.7% in 2022.

Is this possible? That one overspends and over-borrows and yet the debt/GDP ratio will keep falling?

DBM, NEDA, and Malacañang say yes because the projected taxes/GDP ratio will increase via the proposed Tax Reform bill of 2017. Sec. Diokno said in the same forum that “We will continue to guard against underspending, the Waterloo of the previous administration.”

“Underspending” for me should mean that expenditures are lesser than revenues, resulting in a fiscal surplus. When expenditures are larger than revenues but the deficit is only at -1% or below -3% of GDP, that is still overspending, not underspending. So the previous administration did not really underspend, just that it did not go into an uncontrolled spending spree.

Here are relevant numbers about the Philippines’ fiscal position and levels of outstanding public debt, and comparative debt/GDP ratio of seven ASEAN countries (see table).

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The numbers above show three important facts:

One, the average deficit in the previous administration, 2010-2015 was only P185 B/year or -1.8% of GDP, benign and considered as “underspending” by many fiscal hawks, especially when compared with deficit in 2009 (last year of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration) and 2016 (first year of Duterte administration).

Two, low annual budget deficit and borrowings in the same period means the country’s outstanding debt stock has risen only mildly, with the average of P260 B/year.

Three, partly a result of this, the Philippines’ debt/GDP ratio over the same period showed significant decline, similar to the experience of Myanmar while other neighbors posted deficits, owing to increased borrowing.

Fewer borrowing means less debt service payments for both principal and interest. It was during the same six-year period that Philippines’ GDP growth was 6.2% per year, much higher than Thailand’s 3.7%, Indonesia and Malaysia’s 5.7%, Vietnam’s 6.0%.

In the same BW Economic Forum, the DoTr showed that these projects will be ODA (government loans) funded, not PPP.

  1. PNR North Railway (Manila-Clark), construction Q4 2017 — Q4 2021, P255 B.
  2. PNR South Railway (Manila-Bicol), construction Q3 2018 — 2021, P270 B (originally a PPP).
  3. Mega-Manila subway (Phase 1, QC-Taguig), construction Q4 2019 — 2024, P225 B.
  4. Edsa-Central Corridor Bus Rapid Transit BRT (Edsa, Ayala, Ortigas, BGC, NAIA), construction Q1 2019 — Q1 2021, P38 B.

Other big projects were identified but it wasn’t specified whether these would be funded by official development assistance (ODA) or via Public-Private Partnership (PPP). In December 2016, DoF Secretary Sonny Dominguez already indicated that infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration will avoid PPP whenever possible. And the massive China and Japan ODAs came into the picture.

Then there are tweaks in some major projects, from PPP to ODA. Like the PNR South Railway and the Kaliwa Dam project in Quezon province of Maynilad Water. What would pre-qualified players like San Miguel do with this policy reversal?

The Dutertenomics’ spending plan is detrimental to taxpayers in general and the investment environment in particular, for the following reasons.

  1. Bigger annual budget deficit would mean more government loans, higher public debt stock, and will lead to higher taxes now and the future to service those huge loans to be contracted. Soon the P6/liter increase in oil excise tax will not be enough, it will further rise.
  2. Massive shift from PPP (private investment) to ODA of major infrastructure projects will result in more loans which mean more public debt, more taxes, and fees in the future.

Global commodity prices, trade and growth

* This is my article in BusinessWorld yesterday.

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One of the beauties of free trade and global economic integration is that countries can benefit from low commodity prices as improvement in technology and processes in other countries result in bigger output for the same land area and other inputs. The downside of course is that when commodity prices go up, economies that are more dependent on imported products would tend to wobble.

The period from 2008 to 2014 was characterized by generally high food and commodity prices.

For instance, price of corn was only $98/ton in 2005 but it shot up to $223 in 2008. I think it was the momentum of the biofuels law in the US in 2005, spurring huge demand in the US, Brazil, other countries. The price mellowed in 2009-2010 during the global financial turmoil that started in the US, but shot up again to nearly $300 in 2011-2012.

The global spike in rice prices (aka as “rice crisis of 2008”) from $288/MT in 2005 to $700 in 2008 was caused by several factors, among which are (a) price hikes in major energy sources oil, natural gas, and coal in 2008, and (b) rice export restrictions by India, Vietnam, Brazil, other countries.

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Maize (corn) — US No.2 Yellow, FOB Gulf of Mexico, US price
Rice — 5% broken milled white rice, Thailand nominal price quote
Swine (pork) — 51%-52% lean Hogs, US price
Poultry (chicken) — Whole bird spot price, Georgia docks
Sugar — Free Market, Coffee Sugar and Cocoa Exchange (CSCE) contract no. 11 nearest future position
Coffee — Other Mild Arabicas, International Coffee Org. New York cash price, ex-dock New York

Crude Oil (petroleum) — West Texas Intermediate 40 API, Midland Texas

Natural Gas — Indonesian Liquefied Natural Gas in Japan, $/million metric British thermal units of liquid

Coal — Australian thermal coal, 1200 btu/pound, less than 1% sulfur, 14% ash, FOB Newcastle/Port Kembla

Among the reasons why world oil prices rose to record levels in 2008 was the high energy demand in the two biggest countries in the world in population, China and India. Prior to 2008, from 2003-2007, China’s GDP growth was always double-digit, averaging 11.7% per year. India’s growth during that period was also high, averaging 8.8% per year.

Implications for the Philippines

Among the things that the Philippines should optimize given these price fluctuations in world commodity prices are the following:

  1. Rice trade liberalization should have been started in 2010 when the Aquino administration took power. After short price spikes in 2011-2012, rice prices went downhill. The Duterte administration should proceed with full rice liberalization this year because of high medium term outlook for rice output and exports by our neighbors, Thailand and Vietnam especially.
  2. Sugar liberalization should be pursued too as world sugar prices have declined from their peak prices in 2010-2012 average of around 22 US cents per pound.
  3. Trade of corn and swine, even poultry should also be liberalized. Prices of rice, corn, swine, poultry and other food products are among the major contributors of the overall consumer price index (CPI) which are used to compute the inflation rate.
  4. Energy-intensive industries like manufacturing, hotels, construction, and transportation (on air, land, water) can expand their production and fleet to take advantage of lower prices of oil, natural gas, and coal.
  5. Two hindrances here: (a) the planned hike in excise tax for oil products by P6/liter across the board, and (b) continued onslaught by feed-in-tariff (FiT) and soon, renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that will result in expensive electricity. The purpose of trade and energy revolution is to make global energy prices become cheaper. The purpose of government in this case to make cheaper energy more expensive. These two measures should be abandoned and reversed someday.
  6. Among the ASEAN-6 big economies (Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Philippines), the Philippines registered the highest average GDP growth per year from 2010-2015: Thailand 3.7%, Indonesia and Malaysia 5.7%, Singapore and Vietnam 6.0%, and Philippines 6.2%. There was something good that the previous Aquino administration was doing that the new Duterte administration should somehow continue.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

Mobility of goods, capital, and people in Asia

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last Tuesday.

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One big issue that failed to land on front pages during the ASEAN Prosperity Summit last week is the creeping protectionism, not through rising tariffs but rising non-tariff barriers (NTBs).

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pointed out during the Summit that NTBs and non-tariff measures (NTMs) from 2000 to 2015 have surged by nearly four times to 5,975 from 1,634. This despite the zero tariff regime for intra-regional trade and the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) or the regional single market.

While ASEAN was created initially for defense cooperation against regional communist revolutions in the ’60s and ’70s, it has evolved into a platform for freer movement of goods, people and services, and capital or investment. It was a good development and it should be pursued.

This coming November, the Philippines will host the ASEAN partners’ meeting composed of ASEAN + 6 (China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand) + Russia and US. Mr. Putin, Mr. Xi, and Mr. Trump and other leaders will be coming to Manila.

The US exit from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) and China-Japan leadership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are important developments.

By how much have Asian economies improved based on freer mobility of goods, services, investments, and tourism? Here are some basic data (see table).

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Those that have expanded by more than seven times in just 15 years are the following:

  1. Vietnam: 11.2x in exports, 10.6x in imports, 9.1x in investments, and 10.6x in tourism receipts.
  2. Myanmar: 7.2x in imports, 12.1x in investments, 12.9x in tourist arrivals; also high expansion in tourism receipts.
  3. Cambodia: 14.2x in investments, 10.3x in tourist arrivals, and 24x in tourism receipts.
  4. Laos: 9.3x in imports, 10.4x in tourist arrivals and 36x in tourism receipts.
  5. China: 9x in exports, 7.5x in imports, almost 6x in investments, and 7 to 7.5x in tourist arrivals and receipts.
  6. Japan: 7.4x expansion in international tourist arrivals.
  7. India: 7.5x in exports, 12.3% in imports, and 7.8x in exports.

The Philippines also experienced modest growth in all the above indicators but not fast enough to create more jobs and businesses to its 104 million people. We should take hard lessons from our two small neighbors with huge economic achievements, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Singapore with only 5+ million people and just 3 1/2 hours by plane south of Manila, has 6x more exports, 11x more FDIs, attracts more than 3x foreign tourists and more than 4x in tourism receipts than the Philippines.

Hong Kong with only 7+ million people and less than 2 hours by plane north of Manila, has 8x more exports, 32x more FDIs, attracts nearly 7x foreign tourists, and nearly 8x in tourism revenues.

What small economies Singapore and Hong Kong have that the Philippines lacks are two important policies: free trade (zero tariff, minimal NTBs) and stricter rule of law (the law applies equally to both rulers and ruled, applies equally to unequal people).

So while we have improved our GDP size and material wealth via freer trade, freer movement of people and capital, we need to free up more.

We should allow more islands and provinces to have their own industrial zones to attract more investments and foreign trade. To have their own international airports and seaports to attract more investments and more tourism.

More modern infrastructure, simpler rules, and freer trade will help the Philippines attain what our developed neighbors have already achieved. Drastic reduction in NTBs and the removal of rice quantitative restriction (QR) and protectionism for instance. And less politics, taxes and bureaucracies, more respect for the law by politicians and bureaucrats.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. heads Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

Economic freedom in Asia means faster growth, lower prices

* This is my article in BusinessWorld the other day.

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Thanks to its rapid economic growth, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is being looked up to by other economic blocs as it celebrates its 50th anniversary this month in Manila.

The pace of trade liberalization until this decade is perhaps the world’s fastest both among ASEAN member-states, and even among those outside the group.

Free trade creates good will among people and governments across the globe. It gives foreign trade partners greater access to the home market and, in the process, these trade partners tend to open up to more ASEAN countries’ exports and investments.

Here are two tables that show the economic wonders of free trade policy — not exactly zero-tariff and minimal non-tariff barriers (NTBs) but approaching there — for the emerging economies of Asia. We will use the purchasing power parity (PPP) values of gross domestic product (GDP) to somehow equalize valuation of goods and services across the world.

Overall, the GDP size of the world at PPP values was $40.3 trillion in 1996 and it rose to $120 trillion in 2016 or an expansion of more than three times in just two decades.

ASEAN-5 refers to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. G7 countries are the US, Canada, Japan, UK, Germany, France and Italy.

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Table 1 numbers show the following:

  1. Emerging and developing Asia (including China and India) is now the world’s biggest economic bloc with GDP size of $38 trillion in 2016, overtaking the G7. The expansion of GDP size in just two decades was six times, an astonishing feat. The per-capita GDP also expanded almost five times, the fastest in the world.
  2. ASEAN-5 GDP size of $6.5 trillion in 2016 was larger than the combined economies of the CIS or developing Europe or Sub-Saharan Africa. Per capita GDP expanded more than two and a half times over two decades which is larger than that attained by many other economic blocs.

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Table 2 numbers further show that:

  1. While emerging and developing Asia is only the 3rd largest bloc in the exports of goods and services in the world, selling $3.9 trillion in 2016, the size of exports has expanded 7.2 times after only two decades, the fastest in the world. In terms of price inflation, the region also showed consistent price decline and stability at only 2.9% in 2016, the lowest among developing blocs in the world.
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa and MENA remain burdened with high prices and slow expansion in exports.

Giving local consumers and manufacturers more economic freedom where they can buy and sell the various goods and services that they need and produce means empowering the whole economy. Price declines and price stability are proof that freer trade is working and are instrumental in stabilizing the supply of various traded goods and services.

There are winners and losers in free trade, the same way that there are winners and losers in protectionism. But overall, “net gains” from trade trump “net losses” from protectionism because locals are deprived by policies that limit choices and options.

20170425fd31aIt is important therefore, that emerging Asian economies like the Philippines should never lose sight of the potentials of free trade and resist protectionist aspirations that penalize the consumers while protecting local vested business interests.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the President of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET; both are members of Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia.

Rule of law in Asia and drugs-related murders in PH

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on March 30, 2017.

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While there is continuing (legal and political) debate whether extrajudicial killings (EJK) are happening in the Duterte administration or not, there is no debate that thousands of mysterious murders, often drug-related, have occurred since President Duterte won the May 2016 elections.

So far, death toll of drug-related murders from mid-May 2016 to February 2017 is estimated at 7,000+. The Philippine National Police (PNP) released its official data, indicating that from July 1, 2016 to Jan. 24, 2017, some 2,539 “killed during police operations.”

I have no sympathy with drug lords, drug pushers, and hardened drug users/addicts who steal and commit other crimes just to sustain their addiction and trade. But I also believe that all suspects should be given due process. Armed agents of the state (PNP, NBI, PDEA, sometimes the AFP) should go through the legal process of investigation-apprehension-prosecution cycle and not commit shortcuts of outright murders based on flimsy reasons like “nanlaban eh” (fought the officers) even inside police precincts or even inside the prison cells.

There are many drug-related murders that are outside the “killed during police operations” and these were committed by armed vigilantes. Some of these “vigilantes” were found to be policemen themselves like the two officers caught in Mindoro last October 2016 after they murdered a woman.

To better address the drugs problem and related corruption and murders, we can learn from our neighbors in Asia how they enforce the rule of law, the criminal justice system in particular.

The World Justice Project (WJP) produces an annual study, the “Rule of Law Index” (ROLI) and score countries based on their performance on eight factors and 44 sub-factors. The eight factors are: (1) Constraints on Government Powers, (2) Absence of Corruption, (3) Open Government, (4) Fundamental Rights, (5) Order and Security, (6) Effective Regulatory enforcement, (7) Civil Justice, and (8) Criminal Justice.

The WJP’s Index team has developed a set of questionnaires based on the Index’s conceptual framework, then it engaged 2,700 expert surveys in 113 countries and jurisdictions and involved more than 110,000 households as respondents to the experts’ questionnaires.

Below is a summary table from ROLI 2016 in Asia. The Philippines’ scores in ROLI 2014 and 2015 reports are also included. The following acronyms stand for: SG Singapore, SK South Korea, JP Japan, HK Hong Kong, MY Malaysia, ID Indonesia, TH Thailand, PH Philippines, CN China, and CM Cambodia (see table).

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The numbers point to the following:

One, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are developed economically mainly because they have high observance and respect for the rule of law as reflected in their high ROLI scores, also high scores in component #8, the criminal justice system. In contrast, communist China and Cambodia have low respect for rule of law and have low scores.

Two, ASEAN 5 — Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines — have middle scores in overall ROLI, which is somehow good news. But in component #8, Indonesia and Philippines have low scores.

Three, the Philippines has shown consistent low scores in component #8 for the past three years. In particular, very low scores in the four highlighted items — CS Adjudication and Correctional system are not effective, the Justice system is highly discriminatory and due process is not properly observed.

Some of our developed neighbors like Singapore have death penalty against drug-related crimes, true. The difference is that the accused are given due process and the chance to prove their innocence and not summarily executed just based on suspicions.

What deters criminal behavior is stricter observance of the rule of law, the near-certainty of apprehension and imprisonment of violators, even if they may be the law enforcers themselves. This is the kind of criminal justice system that we need. Not state-sponsored or state-inspired or state-tolerated murders.

Bienvenido S. Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET; both institutes are members of EFN Asia.

Taxation in East Asia and PH tax reform bill

* This is my article in BusinessWorld on March 24, 2017.

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The current tax reform proposal of the Duterte administration promises to improve the Philippines’ competitiveness mainly by reducing income tax rates and cutting exemptions in value-added tax (VAT) and other fiscal incentives. The proposal has somehow created three myths in taxation.

  1. REDUCING THE INCOME TAX RATE CAN LEAD TO REVENUE LOSS.

No, for two reasons. (a) The Laffer Curve is a good reminder that tax revenues can go down as tax rates increase. High taxes are disincentives to honest business and that is why many companies are hiring good law and accounting firms to either take advantage of legal loopholes and reduce tax payments, or find technicalities bordering on dishonest tax payment. And (b) Hong Kong and Singapore are good examples that low income tax rates do attract more local and foreign businesses, which further expand the tax base.

  1. THE NEED TO RAISE EXCISE TAX FOR VEHICLES AND OIL PRODUCTS TO COMPENSATE FOR REVENUE LOSS IN INCOME TAX CUT.

No, for two reasons. (a) Vehicles and oil products are necessary for more business creation — petroleum is a public good, after all. Petroleum allows huge trucks, buses, airplanes, and ships to transport more people and goods, activities which again expand the tax base; and (b) raising the oil tax (by P6/liter across the board) further raises the cost of doing business in the country.

In the table, the Philippines is third highest in tax payment as percent of commercial profit.

While the taxes on profit and corporate income is comparable to many of its neighbors, its “other taxes” like VAT, documentary stamp tax, franchise tax, capital gains tax, excise tax, etc. charge high rates. So raising the excise tax on vehicles and oil products is a raise on “other taxes” and that will dent the attractiveness of lower income tax.

  1. NO NEED TO LOWER VAT, JUST REDUCE THE NUMBER OF EXEMPTIONS.

No. For two reasons: (a) Many industries and sectors have succeeded in their lobby for VAT exemption precisely because the 12% is high; and (b) among ASEAN countries, the Philippines, at 12%, has the highest VAT rate%; five countries have only 10% (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam), Singapore 7%, Malaysia 6%, Myanmar 5%, Brunei 0.

See the column on tax post filing index (PFI), distance to frontier (DTF), 100 being the highest score. The Philippines has a low score of 49.8 mainly due to VAT non-refund policy. Economies with scores of 63 and above either do not have VAT or have VAT but have low compliance time with paying their corporate income tax (CIT) (see table).

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So a good compromise will be to bring the VAT back to 10% and remove all exemptions except for raw agricultural and fishery products.

Another observable point from the above numbers is that many countries in Asia (and other continents) were socialistic in their income tax policy, started after World War II until the 1980s. For instance in 1980, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan have income tax rates of 60%, Philippines has 70% and South Korea has almost 90%. The faster pace of globalization from the late 1980s onwards made many governments realize that the Laffer Curve indeed is correct, that the higher the tax rate, the lower will be the business activities and overall tax revenues.

To plug endless fiscal irresponsibility also known as endless and yearly budget deficit that require endless search for higher taxes, certain public spending and subsidies must be cut and certain government offices and bureaucracies must shrink or be abolished. Governments should learn to live within their means, even live below their means, especially during years without crises so they can have fiscal surpluses and pay their ever-rising public debt stock.

Bienvenido Oplas, Jr. is the head of Minimal Government Thinkers and a Fellow of SEANET. Both institutes are members of EFN-Asia.