Government is a simple commissioner

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

A calculation for tax — the income tax and other taxation | Photo by stevepb via Wikimedia Commons

There is an atmosphere today that is not easy to describe. The changing of presidents usually ushers in the proverbial honeymoon period. The fact that the Comelec electronic count of the election results showed a massive landslide should have been enough to stimulate public celebrations nationwide. Weirdly, there was none.

On the contrary, the mood after the presidential elections was everything else but festive. According to many previous surveys, Duterte was a very popular president. He then welcomes to Malacañang a new president fresh from an official landslide victory. Yet, no festivities.

It is natural that the pro-Leni Robredo forces are deeply disappointed, frustrated, and largely convinced that electronic cheating and massive vote-buying accompanied the elections. It is not natural, however, that the 31 million who were supposed to have voted for the new president cannot dominate the national mood. Except for trolls, of course. But even they are not really celebrating. They simply continue their acrimonious disinformation against Leni Robredo, pink, and yellow forces instead of enjoying the fruits of their labor.

The 20-peso per kilo rice was highlighted in the campaign noise, as was the return of gold bars and an imaginary golden era. But contrary to all the hype, what has greeted Filipinos since then is a painful and ugly reality.

Painful are prices of essential commodities, including food and fuel, that are crippling the purchasing capacity of the vast majority of Filipinos. Even worse is that skyrocketing costs are frequently accompanied by a lack of availability.

Ugly is the segue of horrible reports on shocking losses and purchases committed in several government agencies, from DOH and PhilHealth, DepEd, and the Department of Agriculture. And what about forged signatures for imports or presidential appointees? It does seem that more ugly stories of the same kind will continue to be unearthed in the near future because there seems to be a pattern to everything.

The painful and the ugly are aggravated by a tentative, even fearful, business environment. Perhaps, it is the sudden awakening of the more knowledgeable that 7 trillion pesos was just added to the government debt, doubled by just one president. Then, a weakening of our exchange rate is also very troubling, more than 20% from the Benigno S. Aquino III presidency. Moving forward, the new administration has already announced plans to borrow more than another trillion pesos in 2023, maybe before the first presidential year is over.

Naturally, the poor will be poorer. Most recent post-election surveys already point to that reality. Hunger and fear of hunger are rising, and those experiencing and feeling it are supposed to be the dominant sector of the 31 million votes. How sad if they expected otherwise according to the political propaganda they believed.

Private research studies point to the weakening, not of Class D & E, but of Class C itself. If many in the C Class already feel the economic crunch, only 10% of the population is more or less insulated from the economic threats today and in the near future. Our situation is such that, even with politics aside, there is a global economic problem. Worse because this negative atmosphere is also politically driven, not just the pandemic.

What, then, are we to do? Is it back to all of us waiting for the government to counter economic and political difficulties? If so, then another 7 trillion in additional debt may not even be enough. In its essence, the government is a simple commissioner – meaning it makes a commission from the production and income that the people generate. With the commissions it collects through taxes, the government then designs and manages plans and programs to increase the people’s production and income.

The investment of government, therefore, must be focused on the people’s productivity and income. Not all investment is anchored on money, maybe not even most of it. Hope and inspiration drive people to work, struggle, and sacrifice. A vision is necessary to contain that hope and inspiration. That is what I wish would soon emerge. Without that, we are threatened with a continuing weakness even of the spirit.

“The government can either be a great motivator or a source of disillusionment and desperation. With insufficient production on our part, every commission that government earns through taxes and income from government-owned and controlled companies has to be wisely used.”

Most of the people are categorized as the private sector. Outside of the bureaucracy, we call government (I estimate at less than 2 million), the rest of us belong to the private sector. We, therefore, are the engine of the nation. Enough of us must produce what the whole nation needs, including support for the poor. It is crucial that we understand and perform this role.

The government can either be a great motivator or a source of disillusionment and desperation. With insufficient production on our part, every commission that government earns through taxes and income from government-owned and controlled companies has to be wisely used. Every little corruption, every peso or time wasted, brings down everyone. How sad that more and more government agencies in every branch are seen as corrupt.

We must seek hope and inspiration from within if we cannot get the same from the government. We have no choice. And that is why the private sector, and that is basically almost all of us, must drive itself to produce and earn. If we can, we are building our capacity, we are building our independence.

Never mind that government will always get its commission. A productive and independent citizenry is more important than a government. In fact, we are the saviors of government and our nation. Wishing for good governance has been a cyclical refrain of our collective angst. We still sing the same song 76 years after our self-governance in 1946.

Let us change something in a formula that we cannot make work. If governance cannot be good, let us not wait for it to be so. But citizenship can strive to be good, and it takes only each of us to begin being productive and help take care of others. Who knows? The government may even follow.

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