Monday, January 17, 2005

Fighting corruption

Fighting corruption

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Monday, January 17, 2005 1:13 AM

I have often written in this column that the number one problem in our country is dishonesty of every kind. Corruption is tearing our nation apart. It is not only a national shame but a curse that we cannot seem to shake. It is a malediction that is bleeding our country to death.

A few months ago (August 23, 2004) Time magazine ran an article about the Philippines titled “Going For Broke?” It was a very depressing but sobering piece. It carried some pretty stark facts and figures. Like a budget deficit that ballooned from $897 million in 1998 to $3.6 billion in 2003. Not good. A lot will have to be done to reverse the situation. There will need to be considerable belt tightening. But then, who is willing to do so? It seems as if we are sinking deeper and deeper into debt, and the government does not have the courage to clean up its act and attack the many problems (mostly concerning corruption) that beset our suffering masses.

We spend 28 percent of the budget just for interest payments alone. This is up from 17 percent in 1994. We cannot continue at this pace without courting disaster.

In its piece, Time says that a major problem is tax collection: “A large problem is that too many Filipinos treat tax bills like parking tickets—they simply don’t pay them. . . at least 30 percent of the Philippines potential tax take is lost to cheats and government corruption each year, according to Standard and Poor’s. Only 7 million taxpayers have registered. . . everyone else either isn’t reporting income to the government or has been exempted from paying taxes.”

If I sound pessimistic it is because I see little or no progress in battling corruption. It seems as if the despair of our people stems from the belief that we are mired in the sinkhole of graft and corruption, not just in government but also in the private sector. It seems that the situation is hopeless. It’s clear that we simply cannot continue this way. It cannot be business as usual because business as usual is all about debilitating corruption that is killing us.

I hate to join the chorus of those who have little good to say about what’s happening, but perhaps what’s needed are enough voices that clamor for change in the way we do things. We need to begin behaving like the Christian country that we are, not just in our religious rites but in our everyday lives. We need to stop being religious hypocrites and start living the faith we profess. This means cleaning ourselves up.


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