``No government ever wants less government — that is, less of itself." Garet Garrett (1878–1954), Insatiable Government, American journalist and author
Populism is anything panacean.
Popular political demand has it that the lifting VAT on oil prices will provide relief to consumers.
No quibble on that- yes “automatic and short term relief” that is.
But, alas the thinking STOPS here!
Look at the table provided by ADB above (shown this last week).
It shows that Filipinos spends an insignificant 2.4% of their income on energy expenditures relative to the aggregate. This means food prices does more of the damage to household spending than energy/oil. It also means households are less sensitive (more inelastic) to price changes of fuel relative to food-and so is the reason why car sales remain buoyant instead of a retreat even under surging fuel costs.
In other words, given the accuracy of estimates in the table provided by ADB, what you see in the news reflects popular dissent over higher food prices than fuel. Thus, oil prices reflect more of the political dimensions (since it’s easy to pick on oil as a culprit knowing that this is PRIMARILY an external causality).
Will the magic wand of lifting VAT ease oil prices? Yes, as argued above-temporarily.
But economic logic tells us that lower prices INCREASES demand.
This means that if oil prices in the
Essentially this brings us back to square one- High oil prices but with a gaping fiscal hole! What was deemed as a solution complicates the situation even more.
Hence, what then would be the next item to blame? Will the next political demand be "Nationalization"? (Hahaha!-
One senator suggested that VAT be replaced with a hike in luxury items (particularly car sales). The honorable senator forgets the effects of high taxes on car sales: car smuggling or legal loopholes which has resulted to the recent brouhaha over “used” car imports from economic zones (see Diesel Roll Back For PGMA’s Sona, MV Princess of the Stars Tragedy, Economic Realities of Cagayan’s Used Car Trade).
Another venerable senator suggests "efficiency" in tax collection by curbing car smuggling. Wonderful, another ideal solution- yes (we agree)! But then again this is nothing new and has been a battlecry for almost every aspiring politician. Yet, such motherhood statements or grand nostrum of lack of “efficiency” goes back to the paradox of overregulation, legal loopholes and bureaucratic leakages and corruption.
So, in effect both Senators have been discussing solutions based on a chicken and egg perspective but don’t deal with the heart of the problem!
The principle of taxation basically is the funding of government expenditures (for whatever programs) derived from revenues levied from its constituents, us the taxpayers.
Rising government expenditures without the necessary funding will compel government to borrow and or print money which results to the deterioration of the national balance sheet or the fiscal deficit.
When government competes with or “crowds out” the private sector in raising money this raises the cost of money while at the same time reducing productivity which derails investments.
Over the longer horizon, if alternative options of borrowing and printing money under degenerating deficits become unsustainable, the government will again be forced to raise taxes furthering our economic agony of rising unemployment, lack of investments, higher cost of living and depreciating currency.
Yet beyond the public’s knowledge; the demand for “reckless” spending to accommodate populist causes could entail the risks of hyperinflation! You should look at the classic hyperinflation paradigm unfolding in
Tersely said, short term popular elixirs will only lead to longer term pain. A cure worse than the disease.
While everyone wants to be relieved of high oil prices and the burden of taxation, what people should realize is that cuts in taxes NEEDS TO BE ACCOMPANIED BY A CORRESPONDING DECREASE IN GOVERNMENT SPENDING.
What I am trying to say is that an abolition/suspension/moratorium of VAT should come with DECREASED spending and not shifting of burdens by imposing other taxes, which lead to more inefficiencies in the economy and avenues for more corruption.
None of our political officials have proffered such option because it takes away their inherent privileges of constituent dependency or the basic premise for their existence.
That’s why populism is almost always about intuition, vacuousness and immediate pacification instead of sound policies that ensures productive economic growth by accumulating capital.