Philippines passes major tax reform law

President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to launch a “golden age of infrastructure,” with spending of about $170 billion for roads, railways and airports during his six-year term. (AFP)
Updated 14 December 2017
0

Philippines passes major tax reform law

MANILA: The Philippines has passed a tax reform bill at the heart of President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic agenda, officials said Thursday, raising levies on coal, cars, soft drinks and cosmetic surgeries to finance the country’s crumbling infrastructure.
Economists and environmentalists have praised the package, with the Philippines winning a credit rating upgrade this week from Fitch Ratings and green campaigners hailing the higher tax on coal.
Officials said the tax reforms, the most significant revenue-boosting measure introduced since Duterte took office last year, would finance increased spending on infrastructure to ease the cost of doing business.
“The tax reform (act) seeks to achieve a simpler, fairer, and more efficient tax system characterized by lower rates and a broader base, to encourage investment, job creation, and poverty reduction,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a statement.
The government has warned that bad roads, crowded trains and poor Internet speed have hindered the country’s competitiveness and threaten to derail efforts to lift millions out of poverty.
The key provisions of the bill, which Duterte is expected to sign later this month, includes a rise in the excise tax on coal, the fuel that runs almost half the country’s power plants.
The coal tax will increase incrementally to ten-fold or 100 pesos (SR7.44) a ton by 2020 according to the version passed in Congress late Wednesday.
The act also significantly raised excise taxes on automobiles, petroleum products including diesel, gasoline and cooking gas, and jacked up mining levies.
The effort to raise revenues also led to a “sweetened beverage tax,” an excise tax on “cosmetic procedures, surgeries and body enhancements,” and the doubling of tax rates on dollar deposits, capital gains tax and stock transactions.
The affected sectors have warned of an inflation spike but Congress has described the legislation as pro-poor for lowering income tax rates and exempting some small businesses from paying a sales levy.
Duterte has vowed to launch a “golden age of infrastructure,” with spending of about $170 billion for roads, railways and airports during his six-year term.
International credit rating agency Fitch had earlier cited the impending passage of the tax reforms as one of the reasons behind its decision to upgrade the Philippines’ credit rating on Monday.
“We estimate the bill to be net revenue positive, reflecting an expansion of the VAT (value-added tax) base and higher taxes on petroleum products, automobiles and on sugar sweetened beverages, which would more than offset a lowering of personal income taxes,” Fitch said in a statement.
Congress this week also passed a 3.767-trillion-peso national budget for 2018, a 12.4-percent increase from last year.


Asian stocks hit as Trump drops Kim summit but losses tempered

A man walks past a bank electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange Friday. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Updated 25 May 2018
0

Asian stocks hit as Trump drops Kim summit but losses tempered

  • Traders had already been nervous in recent days after the US president warned he could pull out of the June 12 meeting with the North Korean leader, while also voicing his displeasure at a deal to avert a trade war with China.
  • In a letter released by the White House, Trump told Kim he was canceling the summit because of North Korea’s “anger” and “hostility.”

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell on Friday as Donald Trump shocked the world by pulling out of next month’s historic summit with Kim Jong Un, though analysts said the losses were tempered by hopes the talks can be rekindled.
Traders had already been nervous in recent days after the US president warned he could pull out of the June 12 meeting with the North Korean leader, while also voicing his displeasure at a deal to avert a trade war with China and threaten tariffs on car imports.
The news Thursday took many by surprise — including North and South Korean officials — and fueled concerns about the future of a rapprochement that has had many hoping for peace on the divided peninsula.
In a letter released by the White House, Trump told Kim he was canceling the summit because of North Korea’s “anger” and “hostility.” The message came after a key aide to Kim hit out at comments from Vice President Mike Pence, saying they were “ignorant and stupid” and warning the talks could be canceled.
However, Trump’s letter added that the talks could still go ahead “at a later date.”
For its part, Pyongyang said the decision “unexpected” and “regrettable” but added: “We again state to the US our willingness to sit face-to-face at any time in any form to resolve the problem.”
“It looks like we are back to fire and fury as the modus operandi for the White House again after President Trump (threatened) a new 25 percent car import tariff and canceled the summit with North Korea,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.
“Not only was the summit canceled but it was back to threatening the DPRK with a military response.”Wall Street ended lower, while Asian trading was muted. Tokyo ended the morning slightly higher, while Hong Kong slipped 0.3 percent and Shanghai was barely moved. Sydney and Singapore each fell 0.1 percent while Seoul was 0.2 percent lower.
Manila and Kuala Lumpur also fell but Wellington, Taipei and Jakarta were in positive territory.
While warning the issue remained fragile, analysts said there was still hope the meeting will go ahead.
“As we’ve seen countless times before, the president tends to walk back some of his more boisterous rhetoric time and time again,” said Stephen Innes, head of Asia-Pacific trading at OANDA.
“While the US and their allies have offered a way to prosperity for North Korea, it was never going to come without some significant concession on the nuclear non-proliferation front.”
And Eli Lee, Bank of Singapore’s head of investment strategy, added: “Given the US’ surprising acceptance of the meeting only in March, the cancelation... may simply be due to the fact that both sides need simply more time for preparation and to find a middle ground in terms of their demands.”
On oil markets, both main contracts extended Thursday’s more than one percent losses after Russia said an agreement with OPEC to cap production — which has provided support to prices in recent years — could be up for revision at a meeting next month .
The comments from Energy Minister Alexander Novak dented a rally in the commodity, which has hit three-and-a-half-year highs on the back of improving demand and supply worries from Venezuela and Iran.

Tokyo — Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 22,457.20 (break)
Hong Kong — Hang Seng: DOWN 0.3 percent at 30,666.38
Shanghai — Composite: FLAT at 3,154.04
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1705 from $1.1725 at 2100 GMT
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3364 from $1.3385
Dollar/yen: UP at 109.53 from 109.30 yen
Oil — West Texas Intermediate: DOWN nine cents at $70.62
Oil — Brent North Sea: DOWN 12 cents at $78.67
New York — Dow: DOWN 0.3 percent at 24,811.76 (close)
London — FTSE 100: DOWN 0.9 percent at 7,716.74 (close)