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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, February 16, 2018
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

The profit TRAIN


The price of gasoline and diesel has breached the P50 and P40 marks respectively and it doesn't look like it will be going down anytime soon.

The Philippine peso is at its weakest level against the US Dollar in 11 years.

The price of chicken went up by P10 per kilo in supermarkets. Rice, pork and beef are also following suit.

Electricity rates went up by P0.84 per KWH this month and BACIWA just deferred a P13 price hike in response to a request of Bacolod Sangguniang Panlungsod. How long that deferment will last, nobody knows.

I don't drink soft drinks, booze, or smoke cigarettes so I don't know how much their prices have skyrocketed.

The inflation rate already went up 4 percent, hitting the high end of the government's target for the entire year in just the first month of the year.

And yet government is telling us not to blame the price increases and runaway inflation on its newly signed and implemented Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion law because its economists apparently didn't expect prices to go up this much when they were crafting the tax reform bill so we should blame the profiteers instead.

If you ask me, the only one to blame for the increase in the price of everything these days and in the months to come is the government.

It is the government's hastily conceived, ill-timed and poorly-implemented TRAIN that allowed the price of everything to rise in defiance of the forecasts of its economists and lawmakers who say they studied the tax reform bill thoroughly.

I won't even bring up the issue of luxury automobiles and the price drop of the favorite vehicle of the esteemed members of our House of Representatives, even if that proves how much more thought was put into the loopholes for those with vested interests in this TRAIN.

What I want to talk about is the inability of this government to put into place the controls and safeguards that should have been able to protect the people of this country from all the so-called profiteering that government officials are sheepishly blaming for the rash of price increases.

I find it hard to believe that TRAIN is not responsible for the unreasonable price hikes because government hasn't been doing anything to stop the profiteers that they say are taking advantage of TRAIN. The price of dressed chicken in popular supermarket chains has gone up P10 ever since TRAIN was announced and aside from blaming others, government hasn't done anything about it. If whoever designed TRAIN expected this “profiteering,” safeguards and protections to protect it should've been put in place before or during the implementation but since there are none, then it would seem that government doesn't care if the Filipino people are being price gouged as long as it gets its taxes for Build Build Build.

Aside from allowing “profiteers” to make hay while the sun is out, there is also the issue of timing. The peso is now one of the worst performing currencies in the region and its value has never been lower. The price of oil is on the rise. These two factors combine to give us one of the most expensive prices of fuel Filipinos have ever seen with no relief in sight. As if the situation isn't difficult enough, our government comes along and TRAIN slaps fuel products with higher taxes. Since fuel is necessary to run everything, from homes, farms and factories, nobody is now surprised that everything else is becoming more expensive.

The sad part is that government economists are proclaiming that according to their models and studies, the cumulative effect of TRAIN on the price of goods should only be something Pesos but what we are seeing in markets and feeling in our wallets are price increases that are many orders of magnitude higher. I know that our government is in a rush to get its BBB program started but the timing of TRAIN coupled with the apathy of government towards the price increases it refuses to take responsibility for sucks.

And that is why, even if I give government the benefit of doubt and believe their pronouncements that TRAIN isn't causing the price increases, I still have no choice but to ultimately blame government for those price increases because when I start spending more for basic goods and services, I really don't have anyone else to blame. The government made it possible for profiteering to break out in 2018 and it hasn't done much to stop the profiteers so if you come to think of it, this government is ultimately responsible for all the price increases and that feeling of doom every time I open my wallet to pay for something that has suddenly become more expensive.

If we believe the excuses of the experts in government who say TRAIN isn't responsible for the shockingly high 4% inflation rate in January, then what is the cause and should we prepare ourselves for further price increases and an even higher final inflation rate when TRAIN does kick in?

In the end, we can't do anything anymore but grin, bear it, and hope that this is all worth it and the higher taxes we pay for goods will mostly go to real infrastructure and not to the happy happy of government officials.

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