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
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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.


OECD warns of global economic slowdown

Updated 21 November 2018
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OECD warns of global economic slowdown

  • ‘We urge policy-makers to help restore confidence in the international rules-based trading system’
  • Trade tensions have already shaved 0.1-0.2 percentage points off global GDP this year

PARIS: The global economy has peaked and faces a slowdown driven by international trade tensions and tighter monetary conditions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned Wednesday.
The OECD, which groups the top developed economies, said it had trimmed its growth forecast for 2019 to 3.5 percent from the previous 3.7 percent.
The 2018 estimate was left unchanged at 3.7 percent.
For 2020, the global economy should grow 3.5 percent, it said in its latest Economic Outlook report.
“The shakier outlook in 2019 reflects deteriorating prospects, principally in emerging markets such as Turkey, Argentina and Brazil,” it said.
“The further slowdown in 2020 is more a reflection of developments in advanced economies as slower trade and lower fiscal and monetary support take their toll.”
OECD chief Angel Gurria highlighted problems caused by trade conflicts and political uncertainty — an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump’s stand-off with China which has roiled the markets.
“We urge policy-makers to help restore confidence in the international rules-based trading system,” Gurria said in a statement.
Trade tensions have already shaved 0.1-0.2 percentage points off global GDP this year, the Economic Outlook report said.
If Washington were to hike tariffs to 25 percent on all Chinese imports — as Trump has threatened to do — world economic growth could fall to close to three percent in 2020.
Growth rates would drop by an estimated 0.8 percent in the US and by 0.6 percent in China, it added.
For the moment, the OECD puts US economic growth at 2.9 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2019, unchanged from previous estimates, but trimmed China by 0.1 percentage point each to 6.6 percent and 6.3 percent.
It warned that “a much sharper slowdown in Chinese growth would damage global growth significantly, particularly if it were to hit financial market confidence.”
Laurence Boone, OECD Chief Economist, said “There are few indications at present that the slowdown will be more severe than projected. But the risks are high enough to raise the alarm and prepare for any storms ahead.”