Wednesday, May 9, 2007

6 Billion Reasons Monthly

Every time a politician says that improvements, i.e. road system, for the country cannot be done right away because the government does not have enough or no money at all, he or she is lying through his teeth. Here are some numbers to consider regarding the remittances sent by all Filipinos living abroad:

Let’s say Filipinos abroad send between $100-1000 to the Philippines monthly. On average, individuals send about $550 (1000 + 100/2). Let’s say 250,000 (50,000 plus OFWs, and the rest are immigrants and naturalized citizens – this is definitely an under estimation) Filipinos send remittance monthly. Every month the Philippines receives 250,000 x $550 = $137,500,000 or 137.5M dollars or (times 47.50, 1.00 $US to PH peso exchange) 6,531,250,000 PH pesos or 6.53B Philippine pesos. This is the kind of money that is available to the politicians. As the money enters the Philippines, 30% of 6.5B pesos or 1.96 B pesos (1,959,375,000 PH pesos) in the form of bank fees, and taxes and ‘processing fees’ immediately goes to and divided between the financial institutions and the government. The remaining 4.57B PH is the spending power of the Filipino people. Of the 4.57 B PH, another 10-15% or 450-680M PH goes back to the government mainly in the form of sales tax. Retail is big business and generates big revenues for many local and foreign manufacturing companies as evident by so many huge shopping centers, mega-malls, popping all over the country. In recent years, Filipinos overseas are pumping additional money with purchases and investments in real estate. Tax from real estate is providing significant revenue for the government.

From the remittances alone, the Philippine government receives an enormous amount of money. This is not including the locally generated revenues which are taxable also. But despite of all that money, the country is in a Third World state. One may ask why? The obvious answer, a well-known fact, is its leaders, the politicians, steal from the national treasury. And this is the reason why there are so many - whether qualified as having the education, training, and experience, or not - run for office. Gaining some kind of government position or seat in office whether locally or nationally has a big incentive of not just having power but gaining access to huge amount of money. The amount of potential financial gain is staggering just from the remittance alone. This is not including the money to be gained from criminal dealings in the form of kickbacks, bribes, and payoffs.

Over the years and true to its reputation as one of the two most corrupt countries (second only to Indonesia), Filipino politicians have demonstrated all kinds of ways to steal from their national treasury. Some at the highest level, especially those with a sense of entitlement, blatantly take money directly from the coffer since there is no one above them to stop or hold them accountable. Many prefer embezzlement as seen throughout all levels of the government including the military. Others, especially those that know they will be in office for some time and will be succeeded by relatives, are a little more subtle and discreet as they skim and siphon from reserved funds. Some are a little more creative as they partner with cronies in phony government-related businesses and projects to misappropriate government funds. A few forego the cold, hard cash, but somehow acquire expensive properties and live lavishly well-beyond their means, their income and personal assets prior to getting elected. One does not have to ask where the money came from to afford such luxurious lifestyle.

For the politicians in the Philippines, stealing money from the national treasury has become a sort of custom. It has transformed to an accepted practice, even to the world, as the Philippines continues to live up to its history as a country that always has a corrupt government run by incompetent and ignorant people. There is no such thing as moral responsibility, righteousness, from government officials. For all civil servants from the president on down to the lowest ranking public administrator, there is no shame for misdeeds and criminal acts against the country and its people. There are also no consequences for crimes against the state; perpetrators go unpunished. There might be some moans and groans in the form of staged protests and political grandstanding from ‘concerned politicians’. But at the end, nothing happens to the accused even if found guilty. He or she is eventually set free for whatever reason. Already lacking morals (as well as mental capacity), most politicians are not discouraged from committing crimes. As a result regardless of who are elected, the country remains in its dismal state and its national treasury is sucked dry year after year.

The congressional election is less than one week away. As always, political-related killings and intimidation are rampant – another tradition. Bribes and ‘campaign gifts’ are flowing in all directions – also another tradition. Candidates will try to get elected at any cost. And just like all the previous politicians, all the candidates are making the all-too-familiar empty promise of ending corruption. And just like before, all those elected will succeed in stopping or ending corruption briefly as promised. Right before they are sworn in, right before they take office, there will be no corruption. But as soon as they lower their right hand, their new brand of corruption begins. But why? One reason, well, at least 6 billion reasons to be exact!

Ano ako? Gago! Hindi ako gagastos ng gano-ong kalaking pera sa eleksyon kung hindi ko siguradong kikita at makikinabang ako ng matagal. Kayo talaga, naniwala na naman at hindi pa rin natututo. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!

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