by Mon Abrea
Held twice a year, the Public Governance Forum (PGF) is a space in which the public sector reports on their initiatives toward genuine reform. The forum is a whole day affair featuring progress reports from national government agencies and local government units that are undergoing the good governance program—the Performance Governance System (PGS).
The forum is also an opportunity for the public and private sector to engage in dialogue on moving forward towards real development. This year, the forum is being staged under the banner theme,“Head On”, as a reminder to the public sector to continue pushing for breakthrough results and aim to become Islands of Good Governance.
The upcoming PGF will take place on May 4 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) at the heart of the CCP Complex and is organized by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and its co-convenors, the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the National Competitiveness Council (NCC).
For many of us who still wonder where our taxes go, this forum ascertains the commitment of the government to deliver quality public services through the different government agencies. But do we expect the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to present its progress report?
The Institute of Solidarity in Asia (ISA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that promotes the sharing of positive experiences and good governance practices among communities in East Asia.
Through its flagship program, the Performance Governance System (PGS), ISA guides national government agencies and local government units in creating sustainable transformation and development programs, and setting up transparency and accountability mechanisms. ISA draws support from individuals, corporations and institutions who believe in its advocacy.
As its core approach to good governance and responsible citizenship, the PGS enables national government agencies, local government units, professional associations, and academic institutions to work together with their communities in articulating long-term development goals; assigning organization- and community-wide accountabilities; and improving transparency by creating sustainable governance mechanisms.
Making doing business easier
Believe it or not, we are making progress. SMEs may have an unending list of complaints, especially during the recent filing of income tax returns, but all these seem to be part of the birth pains in computerizing our government processes.
In fact, a day before the April 15 deadline, the Department of Finance, Department of Trade and Industry, the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), the Department of Interior and Local Government, and nine other institutions announced the launch of the reforms—a product of continuing work under the NCC’s Gameplan 3.0, synergizing government processes related to easing the conduct of business in the Philippines. Gameplan 3.0 streamlines and simplifies government processes across 10 transactions related to “Ease of Doing Business”as measured annually by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC).
What does this mean for our SMEs? It is simplifying the process of starting a business to six steps and 8 days, down from the existing set-up requiring 16 steps and 34 days. The government also announced e-government initiatives for accessible and convenient online transactions for payroll-related payments to Philhealth and Pag-IBIG, reducing the number of payments from 36 to13 per year.
In discussing the simplified processes, NCC Co-Chairman Guillermo M. Luz says, “These game-changers are effective beginning this month in the head offices of the partner agencies and Quezon City and will soon spread across the country. These two sets of reforms are part of a broader game plan that the Philippines, already recognized as the most improved economy in major competitiveness reports over the last four years, will be implementing as we continue to introduce changes and improvements.”
A full brief of the reforms, as well as the corresponding legal documents supporting the new policies, can be found on the websites of all partner agencies in the Ease of Doing Business initiative in the country.
Despite all the bad news, this is still the best time to do business in our country! Public good governance is what we need to see where our taxes go. Let’s continue to move forward and engage in a dialogue with the government toward genuine reform.
The next President may not be able to reverse all this progress, but let’s face it—we pay too much taxes in the Philippines. We deserve a President who will make us feel good about the taxes we pay to the government. We need to see results, not just reports.
Mon Abrea is the founding president of the Center for Strategic Reforms of the Philippines (CSR Philippines), a non-profit organization that champions and consolidates initiatives to empower MSMEs. He is also the Chief Strategy Officer of the country’s first social consulting enterprise, the Abrea Consulting Group (ACG), which offers strategic finance and tax advisory services to businesses, professionals and individuals. Feedback is welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.