In Asia, an extended Week of Action #TaxJustice for #PublicServices

Published on 
06/30/2017

Global Alliance for Tax Justice's Asian network member TAFJA, and Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD), held two high-profile activities in the Philippines, extending the Global Week of Action #TaxJustice for #PublicServices after the Ramadan came to an end.

On June 23, a roundtable was held at APMDD, amongst like-minded groups, to address the inequities in the tax reform proposals from the Department of Finance. This is part of ongoing efforts by progressive groups led by the Freedom from Debt Coalition to block these reforms as they introduce heavier indirect and consumption taxes which will bring greater burdens for the poor and low to middle income groups. The bill has already been passed in Congress, so the succeeding months will focus on mobilizing groups to engage the Philippines Senate not to concur, and to put forward progressive tax proposals, including plugging loopholes in trade treaties, tax treaties and incentives regimes privileging corporations.

On June 27, a forum was held on Debt and Fiscal Justice at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Quezon City, one of the state universities experiencing the persistent inadequacy of budget allocations for education. In a packed room of about 200 university students, the Freedom from Debt Coalition and APMDD/TAFJA discussed the country’s debt dependence and linked this with the tax-related issues and the persistent inadequacy of budgets for essential social services such as water and electricity. Prof. Ed Tadem, FDC president, spoke about the country’s historical cash-strapped situation and its reliance on debt while Program Coordinator Rovik Obanil discussed the debt-ridden issues in the water and electricity sectors.

One of the major reasons, as explained by Mae Buenaventura of APMDD/TAFJA, is the failure of raising adequate domestic resources especially from the rich and the multinational corporations, which enjoy a host of privileges allowing them to significantly reduce their tax obligations. In the meantime, she pointed out that government is poised to tax the poor and low-income groups more heavily through a wave of excise tax impositions and wider VAT coverage. FDC as a member of TAFJA abides by one of the principles of tax justice that any tax reform measure should not lead to more burdensome conditions for the impoverished.

Although they are not yet income taxpayers, students will be affected by the cascading impacts on prices of the impending expansion of VAT and the imposition of excise taxes on petroleum products.

The Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development and TAFJA also published a comprehensive article titled ‘Tax Justice for Public Services 2017: Peoples’ Money for Peoples’ Rights!’ during the week:

“Asia is often lauded for its rising growth rates but behind this growth is also one of the fastest rates of rising inequality in the world. Among the most visible signs is persistent impoverishment, concretized by grave inadequacies in access to the most basic public services from health care and education to water and sanitation. For instance, only 25% of Filipino children aged 0 to 5 in the poorest wealth quintile, while seeking treatment for an illness, had the benefit of visiting a public health service provider in 2005. Medical expenses remain largely out-of-pocket, resulting in disastrous consequences for the extremely poor and low to middle income groups.

(…) These scenarios are unsurprisingly prevalent in Asia, especially among developing countries in the region where public spending on social security and welfare hovers at less than 10% of total government expenditure.

Compared to other sources of public money for public services, tax revenues are arguably the most predictable and enforceable. Yet in Asia, as in most developing regions, where human need for public service provision and delivery is most urgent and acute, tax revenues are not only channelled into expenditures that do not improve the lives of the poor and discriminated groups such as women and rural populations, but also pointlessly lost, to the benefit of narrow elite and capitalist interests”.

You can read the full article here.

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