By Jun Ledesma

A panacea more effective than a vaccine

OUR government is in dire need of cash, and no less than President Rodrigo Duterte is telling us that. Those who think otherwise and tell us that Congress had just approved a budget that runs to trillions of pesos might be thinking that that huge sum is available in government's bank vaults. It is not. Governments’ operations depend on how much projected income will it be able to collect from taxes, fees, incomes from government-controlled corporations to name a few. But the biggest sources are tax revenues collected by the Internal Revenue and Customs bureaus.

With the global lockdown, our production and domestic and export engines had come to a virtual standstill. The Department of Finance caved-in to the demand to extend the payment of income taxes from April 15 to May 15. In the meantime, the government is bleeding. It had set-aside hundreds of billions of available funds and thank the government for prudent spending there are quite a sum to feed those out of job -the daily-wage earners. But the finance spigot is close to running out of money. President Duterte asked his fund-raiser, Sec. Sonny Dominguez, to sell government assets, borrow and think of other means to raise money. The Asian Development Bank readily made available some $500-million in loan. Our triple B credit rating which the Duterte government had achieved suddenly became one of our best advantages. Add to that our GDP -to - debt ratio at 41% and that should give us a comfortable elbow room.

But all these decided advantages depend on how fast can we get out of the woods. We have bull-headed citizens and weak barangay leaders who cannot enforce discipline on their wayward constituents.

Some of us might have missed some interesting facets that emerged in the crisis situation where we are today

If one goes by the whining and ranting of many recipients of government varied social amelioration program, it gives us a clue that many of them were in fact not poor at all. Listen to Kadamay rallyists, barangay residents from Iloilo, those with homes along the riles and an alleged “mahirap” in Sta. Rosa. They practically air the same complaint. To them, the amount of cash and including the food packs that local government units distribute to tie them up while we are into enhanced community quarantine are simply not enough.

I caught up some video clips shown on TV and on Facebook. Consider this.

Paano kami mabuhi sang ginapanghatag nga otso mil o dyes mil? Indi pa gani na mag-igo sa amon sa isa ka semana”. (How will we survive with 8 or 10 thousands? That is not even enough for a week consumption.) Then there is that woman in silk blue scarf complaining about the bag full of goodies and cash that she received which she claimed are not enough for her family’s week consumption.

Of course there are very ungrateful people who received their rations.

From those who rile and speak vile against the government, however, they simply tell us that prior to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Covid-19 plague, they were, in fact, earning anywhere from ₱35,000 to ₱40,000 per month and are better off than bank employees or the night-shift call center agents.

Anyway, I’m just thinking loudly from the confines of my home in Davao City. I also asked myself whether the government will be able to sustain this welfare state which suddenly we have become. There are of course several options that can be resorted to. Realign budgets, stop implementation of mega-projects and sell government assets. While the government is contemplating these maybe those who have the means to pay tax may start paying tomorrow. Maybe, just maybe, the economic team of Sec. Sonny Dominguez can draw up an incentive of extending a 20% discount based on last year’s ITR provided tax due will be paid before the end of April.

Otherwise instead of using those massive temporary health facilities for Covid-19 patients, convert these to detention cells, remove the beds, aircon and WFI facilities and lock up violators of ECQ and curfew for the next five years. It’s a cheaper and easier thing to do. Congress should pass a law to make the crime unbailable. This is the panacea more effective than a vaccine.


About the Columnist

Image of Jun Ledesma

Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.