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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 18 March) – The public clamor to suspend the collection of excise tax on fossil fuel was not heeded because the benefit is, accordingly, across board. It is not selective and does not hit the target; not just the poor bus, jeepney and motorcab drivers would enjoy the benefit but also the rich owners of cars, industrial and business establishments that can afford the weekly gas price hike. Moreover, the government would, accordingly lose billions of revenue in suspending it.

The country’s economic managers/advisers to the president miss the big picture.

A continuing spiral of gas prices may eventually halt the operation of industrial and business establishments because it would no longer be sustainable and profitable. The economy may yet fall into a great depression. Thousands would lose their job in all sectors, everywhere. A great multitude would go hungry again, like what happened in the pandemic lockdown or, perhaps, worst. It would be a major disaster.

Suspending the excise tax means business as usual prior the Ukraine-Russo war. It would cushion the devastating impact of the war. Although the situation may still be difficult, it could be tolerable because the great majority has something still to hold on. Though the amount is not as windfall and certain, the tax revenue from various sources may somehow reduce the government’s loss from the excise tax suspension.

In lieu of the excise tax suspension, the President approved the grant of  ayuda – cash gift  of P200/month to poor families as recommended by his economic advisers. The official gesture is a cruel joke.

What can you have with P200 to alleviate hunger for a month? To spend it on rice and fish, the pitiable amount would only last at most for 2 days to a family of 5-6 members.

The great challenge is to make the ayuda last for 30 days. It may be done by spending it slowly, say, at P6.65/day on something. What could that be?  A bubblegum, perhaps, for the entire family; that would make their mouth active for the whole day, like that of the endlessly chewing carabao, as long as they  don’t spit the gum,  once it becomes already a tasteless rubber.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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