Out of touch with reality

THE country's inflation rate has reached a five year high of 4.6 percent. The TRAIN law has driven up the prices of basic commodities. Gasoline and petroleum prices continue to rise, pushing prices up even more. This is the bleak picture of the Philippine economy today.

To hear Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno explain it in an interview with CNN Philippines' Pinky Webb, things can only get better. He mouths the government line that Filipino families can live on P10,000 a month. The man, a recycled official from the discredited Estrada administration, is out of touch with reality. Explaining the effects of the excise tax and spiraling oil and gas prices, Diokno said the increase in the prices of crude oil was not foreseen in the global oil market.

What? If actuarials in the life and property insurance industry can do it, why not in the global oil market ? These can be read in news reports of oil producers like Saudi Arabia reducing oil production or Iran holding back its own output because of political developments.

The crux of the problem here is that the bright boys who conceptualized the TRAIN law only factored in the huge revenues that would accrue to the government —but not the downside to the poor and downtrodden sector of our society.

Well-paid as a Cabinet member, Diokno does not feel the suffering of the low-income or middle-class Filipinos. Perhaps he should try going to the market instead of relying on his maid or his wife. Then he would know the reality on the ground, how much food really costs these days because of the effects of the TRAIN Law.

He said this can be offset if both husband and wife are working. The head of the family is already finding it difficult to put food on the table for a family of four or five. Diokno should also just ride a taxi and ask the driver how's he doing with making the operator's imposed boundary. I do this on a regular basis to know what the people in the lower part of the totem pole are saying about TRAIN.

Diokno should have referred to the Department of Labor and Employment's data on the number of unemployed Filipinos. He would realize that often, heads of families are out of work which is why they and their children scavenge for whatever they can find to sell from the garbage heap. A major global TV network once documented and ran a full-length feature on how Filipinos scrounge for leftover food to boil and eat. It's known among the hungry as "pagpag." When I saw the documentary, my stomach turned—not because of the filth in the leftover food, but because of the pathetic situation our countrymen have to suffer.

Diokno said the government is preparing some P2 billion for poor families to offset the rising cost of living. So why was this not at the same time in the implementation of the TRAIN law, Webb asked. Diokno had a hard time answering.

In other words, the government imposed a law that would negate the revenue to be earned by the government because it would have to be given back to the poor. This would happen at the end of the year, according to the budget secretary.

In other words, the government has passed the TRAIN Law so it could give back revenues to the people when they complain about its ill effects. Talk about senseless thinking by officials around the President.

Topics: Out of touch with reality , Alejandro del Rosario

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