April 7, 2009

Chiz against publicizing tax information?

Habang tumatagal, mas lalo akong nakukumbinsi sa kakulangan ng sustansya sa utak ni Chiz Escudero. Eloquence should be matched by substance, but Chiz once again let his mouth shoot off with minimal exercise of brain cells.

Tulad nang naipost ko dito nung nakaraang linggo, naisama ang Pilipinas sa listahan ng G-20 na mga tax haven o mga bansang hindi nagko-cooperate sa pagbabahagi ng tax information. Ang listahang ito ay hinanda ng Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development pagkatapos ng isang comparison ng local standards ng mga bansa sa napagkasunduang international tax standards.

Inaasahan ko na ang balitang ito ay magsisilbing wake-up call sa ating mga legislators dahil ang mga pinupunang local policies ay nag-ugat sa ilang provisions ng National Internal Revenue Code at ng Bank Secrecy Act. Ngunit sa halip na mag-propose ng solusyon, mas minabuti ni Chiz na kastiguhin ang G-20 na sinasabi niyang dapat tumingin muna sa salamin at huwag gamiting scapegoat ang mga bansang tulad ng Pilipinas sa kasulukuyang financial crisis:

G-20 leaders told to look in mirror before looking for scapegoats
B. Fernandez

GROUP of 20 (G-20) Summit leaders equally responsible for the worldwide economic crisis—as well as developing countries known to harbor tax havens—should first admit their sins before coming up with scapegoats, according to opposition Sen. Francis Escudero.

Escudero and other senators were incensed by reports that the Philippines was included in a blacklist drawn up following concerns over international tax standards raised by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) during the recent G-20 summit in London.

The senators lamented that the Philippines, along with three other countries, have been included by the OECD in a blacklist of nations that have not committed to these standards, particularly on exchanging tax information.

“If they want to talk about commitment to transparency, let us start with those US banks that definitely cannot be held up as paragons of fiduciary responsibility,” Escudero stressed, noting that while they collapsed, the local banking system has remained unscathed.

Escudero added that the concerns of the OECD should have been conveyed to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), which will then determine what action should be taken to the extent permitted by law. He said the AMLC should declassify the concerns forwarded by G-20 members, including the bill of particulars.

“If remedial-action legislation is needed to further iron-clad the anti-money laundering law, the AMLC should draw up one based on lessons learned from the actual implementation of the law, and not because a conclave of those responsible for the global economic mess, in absolving themselves of any liability, is shifting the blame to others,” the senator said.

Escudero emphasized those countries like the US cannot be an exemplar on how to conduct oversight since banks misbehaved under the very regulatory regime that they crafted. “Banking practices that contaminated the world [with] toxic debt cannot be models of discretion. It’s like making a junk vehicle the car of the year,” he added.

“The G-20 concerns should be independently verified if they have any basis at all, or if they were hurriedly inserted as a filler in their standard communiqué.”

I have no love lost for the G-20. Their imperialistic tendencies specially in imposing their neoliberal economic policies on developing economies has done a lot of harm to the global economy. But there is a proper time to raise said issues. Unfortunately, Chiz once again donned his populist nationalist face to make an uninformed opinion.

Kung babasahin mo ang pahayag ni Chiz, aakalain mo na tinutukoy ng G-20 ang mga tax haven na punong dahilan ng financial crisis. Ngunit ang ganitong point-of-view ay nagpapakita lamang na hindi sinubaybayan ni Chiz ang nakaraang G-20 summit. Kung nagbasa-basa lamang si Chiz ng diyaryo at hindi lamang ng mga balitang finoforward sa email, malalaman niya na maraming mga kasunduan sa G-20 summit na may kinalaman sa financial regulation reform, sa pagreview ng Basel II standards na siyang naggogovern sa mga financial institutions, sa isang coordinated economic stimulus effort, at marami pang iba. 

Ibig sabihin, ang isyu ng tax haven ay isa lamang sa maraming isyu na kailangang i-tackle upang maging epektibo ang reform ng global financial system. Hindi minsang sinabi na ang mga nataguriang tax haven ang ugat ng krisis. Labeling the G-20's actions as finding a scapegoat is very misleading. As to Chiz's demand to the G-20 to first admit their sins, isn't the G-20 country's commitment to overhaul their financial regulation and banking systems admission enough of their complicity?

Ano ba ang kinalaman ng elimination ng tax havens sa pagsolusyon sa krisis? Ang kasalukuyang krisis ay nangangailangan ng isang aggressive na fiscal policy upang mastimulate ang demand sa ekonomiya. Ang fiscal stimulus na ito ay nangangailangan ng malaking gastos mula sa mga gobyerno. Kailangang maeliminate ang mga tax haven upang lumaki ang koleksyon ng buwis na siyang pagkukunan ng pondong gagamitin sa fiscal stimulus. Kung hindi masosolusyonan ang problemang ito, lalaki ang deficit ng mga gobyerno at maaaring hindi na lang nila ituloy ang kanilang mga stimulus at job generating programs.

Ano ba ang hinihingi ng OECD sa Pilipinas? Simple lang naman. Luwagan nang kaunti ang bank secrecy law upang mas madaling makita ng mga foreign governments ang assets ng kanilang mga citizens / corporations na maaaring nagtatago ng mga assets dito. Hinihingi rin na luwagan ang confidentiality clause tungkol sa taxpayer information (tulad ng kanilang tax paid, taxable income, etc.) na sa ngayon ay hindi maaaring makita ninuman dahil ito ang nakasaad sa ating Tax Code. Maganda rin sigurong i-note na 2004 pa lang, napagkasunduan na ang standard na ito. Pero wala namang ginawa ang legislature kung saan kasama si Chiz.

In a country which is perpetually in debt, whose budget always leads to deficit spending, and whose tax revenues are substantially lost to tax evasion practices, one would have hoped that the OECD's request for a more transparent tax information system would have been welcomed. Pero hindi. Chiz would rather play the "woe look at us 3rd world countries being bullied by the G-20" card. Hindi mo na lang maintindihan kung bakit hindi na lang niya pangunahan ang mga reporma upang maging mas transparent ang tax information system ng Pinas at nang magkaalaman na kung sino ang mga hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis.

Minsan na nga lang magkaroon ng reasonable demand ang mga imperialist countries, saka pa kinontra!

Personally, I think tax information reform should extend not just to sharing said information to foreign authorities but also to domestic authorities under certain circumstances. Matagal ko na ring gustong malaman kung mas mataas pa ang binabayaran kong buwis kaysa sa mga pulitikong tulad ni Chiz na ayaw luwagan ang confidentiality provisions ng tax code.

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