Solons: How can people be happy with more taxes?
More taxes, more happiness?
Economic planners touted on Tuesday the inclusion in the proposed P3.767-trillion budget for 2018 of the concept of “gross national happiness (GNH),” a development philosophy popularized by Bhutan in the 1970s.
But at least one lawmaker was unhappy with the expenditure program, wondering: “How could the public be happy with more taxes?”
At the first congressional hearing on the 2018 budget, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia explained how the GNH metric would ensure the budget would be geared toward development goals and help raise the quality of life of Filipinos.
Bhutan’s King Jigme Singye Wangchuck coined the phrase “gross national happiness” in the mid-1970s, rejecting gross domestic product (GDP) as the only measure of progress.
GDP is the value of goods produced and services rendered in a given period.
GNH policies “take into account equality, family integrity, health, gender equity and satisfying jobs, among other things,” according to the Asian Development Bank.
The House appropriations committee chair, Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, said his panel would take into account the concept of GNH in crafting the budget law.
“We should fund programs to make our people happy. Our national programs should be designed to ensure that our people are generally happy with their way of life,” Nograles said in a statement.
Hard to achieve
But Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the new development indicator would be hard to achieve with the government’s “antipoor tax reform package that would spike the prices of basic services and commodities, and affect the majority of our poor people.”
“The poor will not be happy with the tax reform package because the only sure thing here is that the prices of everything will go up because of new taxes,” Zarate said.
In March, the House of Representatives approved the first of the Duterte administration’s tax reform package, which would lower personal income tax rates but raise taxes on fuels and sweetened beverages.
The budget proposal submitted by the Department of Budget and Management to the House assumes additional revenues from the new taxes.
“We have not even enacted the tax reform package yet [but] they have already included [revenues from the package] in their computation, which is illegal,” Zarate said.
The proposed 2018 budget is 12.4-percent higher than this year’s budget of P3.35 trillion and constitutes 21.6 percent of the GDP.
The education sector will get the biggest chunk of the budget with a funding of P691.1 billion broken down as follows: Department of Education, P613.1 billion; Commission on Higher Education, P13.5 billion; and state universities and colleges, P64.6 billion.
Other agencies with huge budgetary allocations are Department of Public Works and Highways, P643.3 billion; Department of the Interior and Local Government, P172.3 billion; Department of Health, P164.3 billion; Department of National Defense, P145 billion;
Department of Social Welfare and Development, P138 billion; Department of Transportation, P73.8 billion; Department of Agriculture, P54.2 billion; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, P33.5 billion; and Department of Environment and Natural Resources, P27.9 billion.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.