The new year unfolds with a lot of noise from those in media and the left who want to take the president to task for “reneging” on his campaign promise to increase monthly pension of SSS retirees by P2,000 monthly.
I was not into writing articles during the campaign proper because I was actively supporting the Duterte candidacy, but I sympathized with PNoy and the SSS chair and president then who stoutly maintained that the private pension fund would go dry in eight to 10 years if we listened to the legislators who insisted on the pension increase.
It’s nice to be populist; it’s always “politically correct” to give in to every clamor for pension increase, tax freeze (or reduction, even), and higher social benefits. And in the heat of election campaigns, one could not alienate the voting public by being on the side of good economics and not good politics.
This is not to say that anyone, let alone myself, actually egged candidate Duterte to declare that he was for increasing the SSS pension as legislated then, but vetoed by President Aquino. Truth is, all the candidates for president to my recollection, with the exception of administration candidate Mar Roxas who had to clam up for obvious reasons, promised to give in to the pensioners’ clamor.
So I fully sympathized with Budget Secretary Ben Diokno’s rather politically incorrect statement over a radio interview, when pressed about President Duterte’s campaign promise, that there is a difference between candidate Duterte and President Duterte. Ben was just being candid.
He further explained, and I agree, that in the heat of a campaign, one may not have actual data on the financial condition of the private SSS funds, as against when one already sits as president, and is made aware of the financial realities.
But media twitted Diokno, saying that one must bind a candidate to his promise. Diokno was right in saying that actuarial science had to be respected, and that public funds should not be used to subsidize private pension funds, as that could lead to disastrous consequences not only to the public till, but is unfair to the taxpayer as well.
The SSS would be in a no-win situation here, if it allows itself to be pressured by “clamor.” And the administration is in a damned-if-you do (later) and damned if you don’t (now) conundrum.
But then I always maintain that in the end, good economics equals good politics, even if it may be unpopular.
For government, it’s a “tighten your seat belt” strategy. It should not pander to populist rhetoric.
Then again, many in Congress balk at the proposed tax reform measures proposed by our economic managers. While these politicos are all for reducing the income tax rate and reducing corporate income taxes, they eschew revenue balancing measures such as an increased excise tax on petroleum products, again talking of how these will “impoverish” the poor.
They are against increasing “sin” taxes on sugared drinks because the “poor” will suffer, refusing to look at the toll on public health of ingesting too much sugar, whether in food or drinks. We have become a nation of diabetics, hypertensives, kidney dialysis hooked-ups, even obese people, because of our high-sugar, high-fat, high-sodium, high-cholesterol diet, and yet we “pity the poor” when government wants to tax these “sin” products.
The legislators want a two-tiered tax on tobacco products, because a single tax rate would be “unfair to the poor” who can only afford cheap cigarettes, while the rich can indulge in their vices even if they inhale nicotine and poison from more expensive brands. Mighty great reasoning, he he.
F**k! Why not tax all cigarettes to the highest heavens so no one but the foolish rich can afford them? Why not ban smoking in all public places, even in parks and sidewalks? And thus protect all from becoming potential cancer patients? And save the treasury from having to provide hospitalization to those who wasted their personal health on these “sin” products?
Will nothing but tobacco grow in the “solid north”? Is it really a mono-crop economy?
We want good roads, good and modern mass transport systems, bridges to connect our islands, better public health insurance, better quality education accessible to the poor and middle-class, and almost everything else that government can provide only if the public will do its share in paying taxes and becoming upright citizens of the Republic.
We cannot grow as an economy if we want freebies and give little in return. No pain, no gain.
The same legislators whose hearts “weep” for the poor at each turn are also the guys who provide themselves, rather “their poor constituencies” hefty slabs of disguised pork, as Senator Ping Lacson discovered. As usual, in aid of reelection.
For once we have a president with strong political will yet is sensitive to the plight of the poor. Character, compassion, competence.
Finally someone who will do what is right, regardless of political fallout. Someone who will have a balanced view of what the future should be, even if it may mean present sacrifices.
It is our hope that in the perpetual balancing act which is what governance is all about, populist demands will not discombobulate long-term economic good.
I cannot end this article without an in-your-eye rebuke at those hypocrites who condemn the appointment of Mocha Uson as member of the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, where my wife was once briefly a member during the time of President Cory, and the chairperson was the ultra-conservative Manoling Morato.
Whatever is wrong with having a sexy dancer reviewing and classifying movies and telenovelas? Would not Mocha provide a new perspective in a multi-member board that would rate and classify popular audio-visual fare?
These “elitists” and their “trying-hard-to-be elite” followers had better lay off Ms. Uson. MTRCB is not, repeat, NOT a censorship instrument of government. It is supposed to review and classify, not to censor or ban films and TV fare unless they are outright pornography or smut.
Miss Uson, who know what it means to be true to herself, is a perfect fit to be in the MTRCB.