Saturday July 21, 2018

Wenceslao: Too many cars?

THE Duterte administration’s tax imposition called TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion) includes the collection of higher taxes for the purchase of vehicles. Like the imposition of higher taxes on sugary products, higher taxes for the purchase of vehicles follow a supposed logic. Sugary products are bad for the body, tax them. Too many cars on small roads, tax car purchase. By this token, government believes the tax imposition would be well-received.

Not so fast. That logic stands on shaky ground. Is there a study on how higher taxes on, say, cigarettes and alcoholic beverages lowered consumption? I say if the taxes made a dent, it was minimal. Meaning that the supposedly altruistic intent of the tax imposition wasn’t achieved. But the purpose of getting higher revenues from the imposition was a success. Thumbs up to the government. The same should happen in imposing higher taxes on sugary products.

But I have a problem with the logic on the imposition of higher taxes on cars, especially if cars are blamed for the traffic mess we are experiencing daily in the country’s main urban centers. But it has fooled the people into believing the tax imposition’s supposedly altruistic intent. Or at least that was what I found out when I talked with a taxi driver yesterday. “Sobra na gyud ang sakyanan, bay,” he told me.

But it would be wrong to mention the high number of vehicles on the streets without mentioning our government officials’ lack of foresight, which resulted in the failure to build new thoroughfares and widen the old ones enough to accommodate the growing number of vehicles the people are buying. Another point: people are buying cars because of government’s failure to provide adequate and efficient mass transport system. So why blame solely the buyers of vehicles and punish them?

Reminds me of government’s other failings, or should I say the advocacy of former SunStar Cebu columnist Juan Mercado. Our economic planners, for example, have been dreaming of the day when economic growth would finally take hold in the metropolis. But the entry of investors and the sprouting of establishments also means higher consumption in, say, water. Is our water supply adequate for that? What about the supply of electricity?

In this setup, should we blame solely the suppliers of water and electricity for failing to meet the need or to serve us with longer water interruptions and brownouts? Shouldn’t our government officials be blamed, too, for their lack of foresight? Or for seeking economic growth without working to find additional sources of water and electricity? As they say, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. Or you can’t be “dawli” (“dawat lag limpyo”) and escape blame for the mess.

Blaming the number of vehicles for the traffic mess we are experiencing is actually an evasive tactic by the government. It seeks to deflect attention away from the incompetence and inadequacies of past and present government officials, many of whom are corrupt and who siphoned a big chunk of public money intended for infrastructure projects to their personal bank accounts.

Too many vehicles? You’re not fooling me.