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Tax ‘superrich’ to fund teachers’ pay hike

MANILA, Philippines — As President Rodrigo Duterte and his economic managers forestall a long-promised pay hike for public school teachers over lack of funding, an economic think tank has proposed a simple solution: tax the “superrich.”

“The salary increase being asked for doesn’t need to come from consumption taxes,” said research head Rosario Bella Guzman of Ibon Foundation, a nonprofit that provides socioeconomic research and analysis of current issues.

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“If only the government would pursue progressive taxation, you would not need to trouble the average citizen,” Guzman said, adding that if people earning P50 million or more a month paid an income tax of 30 percent, it would generate P400 billion each year.

That taxation scheme would affect only about 38,000 individuals, or 0.04 percent of the population, she said.

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The President’s Cabinet members have previously implied that teachers would receive only a P10,000 raise, estimated to cost a total of P150 billion, if taxpayers were to shoulder the increase.

‘Guilt card’

“They’re playing the guilt card when they ask if taxpayers are willing to pay for teachers to live decently,” Guzman said.

“It’s the most antidevelopment statement I’ve heard in recent years,” she added.

Though Cabinet officials have professed support for a hike in teachers’ pay, they often qualify it with appeals to teachers to consider the fiscal impact a raise would entail.

Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno for one said the raise should ensure that “our public sector deficit remains manageable” and that “the excellent international financial standing the Duterte administration has built” would not be put at risk.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año called for “careful consideration because of (the pay hike’s) huge financial impact on the Filipino taxpayer.”

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Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that citizens should be asked if they were “ready to contribute P150 billion more.”

Guzman said Cabinet officials were presenting the public with a false choice that pit teachers against taxpayers.

Raising teachers’ salaries, she said, would boost the teachers’ consumption level, encourage them to build their knowledge through further studies, and make the economy more vibrant — a stark contrast to the “grim picture” of its economic impact presented by Cabinet officials.

In a recent study, Ibon Foundation said a family of five needed a monthly income of P26,104 just to secure their basic needs, an amount well above the entry-level pay of P20,754 among teachers.

“There is no tangible way to measure the productivity of a teacher, but you will see it in a different kind of society where citizens are more skilled, critical and professional,” Guzman said.

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TAGS: Ibon Foundation, Public School Teachers, Rodrigo Duterte, Rosario Bella Guzman, teachers’ pay hike
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