Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Oil Politics 8: World's Highest Gas Prices

Bloomberg produced a list of the world's highest and cheapest gas prices by country two weeks ago. The paper did not give a breakdown of the general components of oil pricing, where I believe oil taxes by governments comprise more than half of the oil retail prices in those countries, especially those in the top 10.

I only copied the top 20 countries with the most expensive oil prices here.  Here's the story.

Highest and Cheapest Gas Prices by Country
by Tom Randall - May 13, 2012

1. Norway.
Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $9.69
Most expensive gas ranking: #1
Pain at the pump ranking: #48

Norway is unusual in that it's the only major oil producer to have expensive gas. That's because, instead of subsidizing fuel at the pump, the country uses its oil profits for services such as offering free college education and saving for infrastructure improvements.

Norwegians pay the most of any country to fill up their tanks. They absorb these high prices with relative ease. The average daily income is $270. The share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon of gas is 3.6 percent.

2. Denmark
Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $9.37
Most expensive gas ranking: #2
Pain at the pump ranking: #42

Denmark's high gas prices haven't drastically reduced the country's consumption. Danes still rank among the top quarter of the world's gas gluttons.

They can afford the higher price, with a comfortable pain-at-the-pump ranking of 42 out of 55. The average daily income is $178. The share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon of gas is 5.3 percent.

3. Italy
Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $9.35
Most expensive gas ranking: #3 (tied with Netherlands)
Pain at the pump ranking: #29

Italy raised gas taxes 24 percent over the past year, triggering some of the highest prices in the world. It has been a shock to the home country of Ferrari and Lamborghini, where car ownership is one of the highest in the world. Auto sales fell more than 20 percent in the first quarter compared with a year earlier.

The austerity measures introduced by Prime Minister Mario Monti's government have pushed Italian gas prices up more than the EU average, with a 9.4 percent increase in 2012 alone. The average daily income in Italy is $103. The share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon of gas is 9.1 percent.

4. Netherlands
Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $9.35
Most expensive gas ranking: #3 (tied with Italy)
Pain at the pump ranking: #37

The Netherlands has the most bicycles per capita in the world. Rows upon rows of them stand at train stations, museums and national parks. A vast infrastructure of bike paths and lanes, tunnels and traffic signals makes cycling easy to adopt.

The bike-loving Dutch feel more pain at the pump than their Scandinavian neighbors when they do drive. The average daily income in the Netherlands is $144. The share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon of gas is 6.5 percent.

5. Greece
Price per gallon of premium gasoline: $9.23
Most expensive gas ranking: #5
Pain at the pump ranking: #23

The financial crisis in Greece has only exacerbated the high price of gas and its impact on consumers' wallets. Greece's gas prices are higher than the EU average, rising 11 percent this year.
The average Greek earns $75 a day. The share of a day's wages needed to buy a gallon of gas is 12 percent.

Corona Trial 7: Public Distrust and Public Choice Theory

It's over for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines, Renato Corona. The impeachment move by the House of Representatives last December has been affirmed by the Senate yesterday in a 20-3 vote in favor of conviction.

In a number of facebook discourses among my friends, I advanced the position that the term "betrayal of public trust" by the CJ may not be appropriate and not correct after all. Some people, me included, never trusted the CJ (and many other high government officials) in the first place. So there was no betrayal of my trust, of our trust. Rather, there was only confirmation of my distrust, of public distrust, of the CJ.

While I have been following recently the impeachment trial, I have no hope or illusion that a conviction or acquittal of the CJ will result in the shrinking of government powers and expand individual freedom. What I only wished is that the Senate judgment will result in more transparency in government and hence, in less abuses, robbery and wastes in government. Of course between choosing conviction or acquittal, I wished that the CJ would be convicted, and I was not disappointed. I have observed from various sources how the shady character of the CJ would result in more rule of men, not more rule of law, culture in this country.

On the thesis that no major changes in government policy towards shrinking its powers over the individuals and ordinary citizens, I like this (second to the last) concluding paragraph on Public Choice theory by William F. Shughart II:
One key conclusion of public choice is that changing the identities of the people who hold public office will not produce major changes in policy outcomes. Electing better people will not, by itself, lead to much better government. Adopting the assumption that all individuals, be they voters, politicians, or bureaucrats, are motivated more by self-interest than by public interest evokes a Madisonian perspective on the problems of democratic governance. Like that founding father of the American constitutional republic, public choice recognizes that men are not angels and focuses on the importance of the institutional rules under which people pursue their own objectives. “In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself” (Federalist, no. 51).

Government and governors controlling the governed, administrators controlling the administered, is a big magnet for the shrewd and dictators among the people, to join government.

I hope that the next CJ of the highest court will have a deep appreciation of the dangers of BIG government and big powers that are currently on its hands, and more powers being invented and concocted to further regulate, restrict and prohibit more  actions by individuals unless there are explicit permits and registrations from the government

See also:
Corona Trial 1: Impeaching the SC Chief Justice, December 13, 2011
Corona Trial 2: Impeachment for Beginners, December 14, 2011
Weekend Fun 29: Corona Impeachment Cartoons, March 02, 2012 
Corona Trial 6: Miscellaneous Opinions on the Trial, May 28, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pol. Ideology 31: Quotes on Liberty and Government

These quotes below are useful. First group I got from the facebook wall of a friend, Banner C. The second group I got from the facebook updates of a good friend, Lawrence "Larry" Reed.

Photos below, left to right,
First row: George Washington, Tacitus, Albert Einstein.
Second row:  P.J. O'Rourke, Doug Casey, Ludwig von Mises.
Third row: H.L. Mencken, Benjamin Franklin, Barry Goldwater.

"We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office." - Aesop

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” - Henry Ford

"The more numerous the laws, the more corrupt the society." - Tacitus

"Never do anything against conscience even if the State demands it." - Albert Einstein

"The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves." - Alan Greenspan (or as I like to dub "Greenscam"

"You have to choose between trusting to the natural stability of Gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the government. And, with due respect to these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the capitalist system lasts, to vote for Gold." - George Bernard Shaw

""I will do this. Nothing in my life matters except this. No moment of my life exists except this moment. I am born in this moment, and if I fail, I will die in this moment." - Raistlin

"If you scratch a cynic, you'll find a disappointed idealist." - George Carlin

"Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries." - Doug Casey

From Larry Reed's facebook updates:

"A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them: -- P. J. O'Rourke.

"Despots and democratic majorities are drunk with power. They must reluctantly admit that they are subject to the laws of nature. But they reject the very notion of economic law . . . economic history is a long record of government policies that failed because they were designed with a bold disregard for the laws of economics" -- Ludwig von Mises.

"Let no man be sorry he has done good because others have done evil. If a man has acted right he has done well, though alone. If wrong, the sanction of all mankind will not justify him" -- Henry Fielding, English novelist (1707-1754).

"The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle—a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.

It is the aim of the Bill of Rights, if it has any remaining aim at all, to curb such prehensile gentry. Its function is to set a limitation upon their power to harry and oppress us to their own private profit" -- H. L. Mencken, 1930.

"I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer" -- Benjamin Franklin, 1766.

"I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them....And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents' "interests," I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can" -- Barry Goldwater.

John Dryden's words, "Better to shun the bait than struggle in the snare" would have saved Americans a boatload of grief if followed in the early stages of our costly, demoralizing and unsustainable welfare state.

Call it what you want—capitalism, free enterprise, laissez faire or whatever—but a system that upholds property rights and otherwise allows free people to be themselves is remarkable precisely because it’s NOT a "system" per se. No deluded, pretentious planners devise or direct it. It’s no Rube Goldberg contraption of mandates and decrees. It’s simply what happens when you leave peaceful people alone. They produce more and satisfy human wants to a far greater extent than empty nanny-state promises could ever hope to deliver. -- Lawrence Reed.

See also:
Pol. Ideology 9: Liberty and Choice, Atlanta and HK Conferences, June 09, 2008
Pol. Ideology 10: Joe Stiglitz and the Market, December 16, 2008 
Pol. Ideology 11: Liberalism, Democratism & Authoritarianism, January 04, 2009
Pol. Ideology 12: Lao Tzu, Cooperative Individualism, February 07, 2009
Pol. Ideology 13: Liberty and Liberty Forum, the LP, March 19, 2009
Pol. Ideology 14: Liberalism and Democratism, January 18, 2010

Pol. Ideology 15: Socialism, Conservatism and Liberalism, March 08, 2010
Pol. Ideology 19: What is the Role of Government?, March 08, 2011
Pol. Ideology 20: Liberalism and the Squatters, May 17, 2011
Pol. Ideology 21: The Nature of Government, November 14, 2011
Pol. Ideology 26: Socialists in a Liberal Government, February 21, 2012 
Pol. Ideology 27: Why do Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, March 01, 2012
Pol. Ideology 29: Raison d 'Etre of Government, May 20, 2012
Pol. Ideology 30: Federalism, Debt and Civil Society, May 21, 2012

Childcare 7: Reducing Child Mortality

Two weeks ago, there was another good news in the health front from The Economist blog, that "Africa is experiencing some of the biggest falls in child mortality ever seen."

Good news from Africa

May 18th 2012, 16:10 by The Economist online

CHILD mortality in Africa has plummeted, belying the continent’s “hopeless” reputation. The chart below shows the change over the most recent five years in the number of deaths of children under five per 1,000 live births. It does so in 20 countries which have had demographic and health surveys (detailed surveys of living standards) since 2005. Sixteen of the 20 have seen falls, but the more impressive finding is the size of the decline in 12: more than the 4.4% annual fall needed for the world to achieve its millennium development goal of cutting by two-thirds the child-mortality rate between 1990 and 2015. The top performers, Senegal and Rwanda, now have rates the same as India. It took India 25 years to reduce its rate from around 120 child deaths per 1,000 births to 72 now. It took Rwanda and Senegal only about five years. Michael Clemens of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank in Washington, DC, calls this “the biggest, best story in development”.

This is indeed good news. Make modern science and economic growth move to reduce child mortality and when those children become productive adults, they themselves will contribute to further improvement in modern science, economic growth and public health, especially in the area of infectious, non-communicable and tropical diseases.

Meanwhile, the World Health Assembly (WHA), a gathering of the Secretaries or Ministers of Health of WHO member-countries, has prioritized global vaccination.
World Health Assembly endorses the Global Vaccine Action Plan and World Immunization Week
25 MAY 2012 - Ministers of Health from 194 countries at the 65th World Health Assembly endorsed the Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP), a roadmap to prevent millions of deaths by 2020 through more equitable access to vaccines for people in all communities. In addition, Member States also designate the last week of April as World Immunization Week.
Thirty-eight speakers including country delegates, partners such as UNICEF and GAVI Alliance and civil society organizations took the floor in massive support of the GVAP....
I will just add that such global action is not and cannot be limited to government efforts alone. There are many civil society organizations (CSOs) like health NGOs, international civic groups like the tens of thousands of Rotary Clubs under Rotary International (RI), church groups, private charity foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, many others.

Take for instance RI's  "End Polio Now" campaign. The Gates Foundation will donate $355 million over a number of years to RI (about a third of it I think, has been released) and the latter matched it with a counterpart fund of $200 million. There is only one goal for this large mobilization of private resources and donation: to help end polio worldwide.

I also noted a vaccination project for children 4-6 years old by some Rotary Clubs three years ago,  Childcare 2: Rotary DTP Vaccination, May 24, 2009.

While espousing free market solutions to many public health problems, I recognize there is a role for government (hence, I am no anarchist in public health policy) in dealing especially with infectious, pediatric diseases.

See also:
Childcare 4: Treatment and Vaccines for Children's Diseases, February 28, 2012
Childcare 5: The 162 to 52 Summit, April 11, 2012
Childcare 6: On Vaccine Self-Sufficiency Project (VSSP), April 27, 2012 
Socialized Healthcare 4: On Health for All, May 02, 2012
Socialized Healthcare 5: Alterrnative Views on Universal Healthcare, May 23, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Corona Trial 6: Miscellaneous Opinions on the Trial

Later today or tomorrow, the Senators will vote whether to convict or acquit the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I am posting some comments below from some of my friends (all from UP), posted in their facebook walls. Entertaining and educational at the same time.  Here they go.

(1) From my engineer-economist friend, Ms. C.

This is not meant to be my definitive comment on the Impeachment Case, cause I think we, as a nation should abide with what the Senate decides. Follow the rule of law, and the consitution. If you don't agree with the verdict, don't vote for the senators who voted against your interest.

But this is an illustration of how NOT to be a text spammer, and how SMS is not the best means to spread propaganda, as the result may be the opposite of what you intended.

An Unknown number (UNK) sends me the following SMS:

UNK: Walang humpay na pagyurak sa dangal at pagwasak sa pagkatao ni CJ Corona ay gawain ng isang taong may sakit sa UTAK. Diktador PNOY dapat ang kalusin!! Pls pass.

ME: Sino ito? I happen to think that Corona should be impeached! Kaya tumigil kayo sa spam texting.

UNK (at dito uminit ang ulo ko): Wag kna kase magtext.

ME (simula ito ng mahabang diatribe kasi para akong si Hulk kapag nagalit, but instead of turning green, eh writing skills ko ang nati-trigger): Hoy! wala kang karapatang magsabi niyan, ikaw kaya nauna. Tapos kung may text back sa iyo na kumokontra, galit ka?! The CJ should be above reproach at hindi ninyo dapat defense na lahat ng nasa public service defective ang SALN. Cleaning the government needs to start somewhere.

ME (hindi pa din nasiyahan): Ang lakas ng loob ninyong mag text campaign tapos if the person does not comply with your "pls pass" at bagkus, kumokontra sa inyo, galit kayo? Punyeta kayong lahat. Eh kung ipa-trace ko kung kaninong number ito? Sino ba ang pumopondo sa inyo? Kung madami silang ninakaw na pera isoli na lang nila kamo!!!

Ang point ko lang, is if you want to get PR points, you should have a ready reply, something diplomatic along the lines of "I'm sorry that you don't have the same opinion, but thanks for your feedback" would have been much better.

Sasabihin nila Diktador si PNOY pero bawal mag-express ng dissenting opinion? Pag hindi ka agree sa kanila "Wag kna kase magtext."?! Sana makaabot ito sa PR machinery ng defense.

(2) From Atty. Ted.

FROM WHERE I SIT: The prosecution has its task cut out for them; in its closing argument, it should convince enough of the undecided Senators to vote for conviction and not simply abstain because an abstention is equivalent to a vote to acquit if one or enough abstentions result in a failure to get 16 votes. All the respondent needs is 8 votes and he retains the office.

The path of least resistance for a Senator, who is unconvinced of guilt but may not want to antagonize the administration, is to abstain; so too for a Senator, who is unconvinced of innocence but may not want to antagonize the Chief Justice or the Vice President, who is perceived to be sympathetic to the Chief Justice.

The number, for historical purposes, is 16 and 8. If the Chief Justice gets a total of 8 votes, whether to acquit or to abstain, he wins. If he gets less than 8 votes to acquit but gets enough abstentions to prevent 16 votes for conviction, he also wins.

(3) From a famous professional PR manager Malou:

For those wanting to follow the numbers. Here they are:

1. Re-elect
Legarda, Escudero, Honasan, Pimentel, Trillanes, A. Cayetano

2. End of term
Arroyo, Angara, Villar, Lacson, Pangilinan, Santiago

3. LP
Drilon, Guingona, Recto, Osmena, Pangilinan

4. Leadership positions
JPE, Estrada, Sotto

5. Non-lawyers -12
Estrada, Sotto, Legarda, Honasan, Trillanes, Revilla, Lapid, Recto, Osmena, Villar, Lacson, Marcos

6. Lawyers -11
JPE, Santiago, Arroyo, Angara, Drilon, Pangilinan, Guingona, Pimentel, A Cayetano, P. Cayetano, Pimentel....

Manner of voting on Tuesday, May 29, is alphabetical in the ff order: Angara, Arroyo, AP Cayetano, P. Cayetano, Defensor-Santiago, Drilon, Estrada, Escudero, Guingona III, Honasan II, Lacson, Lapid, Legarda, Marcos Jr., OsmeƱa III, Pangilinan, Pimentel III, Recto, Revilla Jr., Sotto III, Antonio Trillanes IV and Villar. JPE, presiding officer votes last.

Why is this impt: the 15th vote to convict once achieved will tilt the scale. So do your analysis from this order....

After 41 days, my sense is there are 3 hard votes for acquittal: Santiago, Arroyo and Marcos. There are 5 hard votes for conviction, and they are all LP: Drilon, Guingona, Recto, Pangilinan and Osmena. There is a swing bloc composed of the leadership positions: JPE, Estrada, Sotto, Honasan, I see Revilla voting in this bloc bec of JPE. Then you have to make 2 columns: leaning towards A and leaning towards C. Watch their body language today during the closing and the kind of questions they will ask.

(4) From Atty. Marvic. (posted yesterday)

Not evidence per se but triggers a presumption, i.e. if a public officer's income is not commensurate with his emoluments, he has the burden to explain...

Public officials: Avoid scrutiny anti graft law, "comingle" peso accounts w/ relatives, convert most to dollar accounts: sound legal advice?

(5) From Atty. Harry (posted last Friday)

With Corona's admission of $2.4Million undeclared in his SALN, he has has assured himself of a conviction. Who will be next CJ? Hope P Noy considers a genuine intellectual this time around. Probaly from the academe?

(6) From Atty. Jojo (posted last Wednesday)

After the senate adjourned and as Corona was wheeled out slowly out of the session hall, notice that not one senator even attempted to touch the Chief Justice of the country with a ten foot pole, and instead was avoided like a leper. At that point, Renato C. Corona was no longer the Chief Justice insofar as the senators were concerned. The midnight appointee was never Chief Justice insofar as I am concerned.

Am not in the mood to make any commentary now on this issue. Will do it tomorrow. I have posted my earlier comments on this subject though:

Corona Trial 3: Impeachment, the Senate and the Supreme Court, May 20, 2012
Corona Trial 4: Walkout at the Senate, May 22, 2012
Corona Trial 5: Walk out from the Senate, Walk in to the Hospital, May 23, 2012
Fat-Free Econ 10: Impeachment, the Senate and Rule of Law, May 27, 2012

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fat-Free Econ 10: Impeachment, the Senate and Rule of Law

This is my article last Thursday in TV5's news portal,

Justice is a higher order than national defense and the economy. In the Third Republic of the Philippines, the raison d'etre of the state is to render "no injustice to anyone.”

This is one of the key arguments made by a fellow UP School of Economics alumni, Dr. Armando “Mandy” Armas Jr., in his new book Impeachment Quagmire: Is the JPE Senate Court Legitimate?

I think Mandy is rewording the concept of the rule of law here, and I agree with his definition of the rationale for government existence: to cause no injustice to anyone, promulgate the rule of law, and by extension, protect private property rights and the citizen’s civil rights, such as freedom of expression, freedom from aggression.

Mandy further wrote: “As the palladium of democracy, impeachment trials are allegedly characterized by the tyranny of judges, Roman orgy of publicity, and the opium of religion. Are senators qualified to be judges in a court of law?”

Orgy of publicity, true. Opium of religion, not sure of this. And yes, senators are qualified to be judges in a court of law. The Philippine Constitution has given them such qualification.

An impeachment trial is mainly a political, not judicial, exercise. Once impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate, an official does not go to prison. He is simply removed from office. So the impeachment trial is only a vote whether the official can stay or not in their job; in the present case, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

To bring an impeached, then convicted, official to prison, one has to bring the case to a regular court and go through the regular judicial processes like presenting various evidence to prove that the impeached official has violated certain criminal laws.

Here the judge is not an elected official who gets their mandate through political popularity, but someone who has been appointed by virtue of their knowledge of the laws and the Constitution, and their supposed impartiality from political pressures and biases.

So have the judge-senators acted with tyranny? No, or not yet, as the trial is ongoing.

This impeachment trial has wide economic consequences. Many business cases - or criminal cases with business implications - are decided with finality at the Supreme Court. If the people have trust in the objectiveness and impartiality of the High Tribunal, especially of the Chief Justice, then they will obey its decision with little or zero objection. And society and businesses can go on with little instability and uncertainty.

But if the people have little or no trust in the Supreme Court, then actors and players endlessly question its decisions, eroding society and the economy.

Economic transactions are anchored on trust. A person buys a vehicle from a motor shop at a particular price on the assumption that what are stated as the vehicle’s capacity and properties are true. If after the sale, the vehicle easily breaks down, trust is broken and the client will directly complain to the seller. If the response is unfavorable, the client can go to court to get proper compensation.

If the courts - from the lower to the higher courts - are perceived to be corrupt and impartial, some people may resort to non-judicial processes to get even, like property sabotage of the motor shop, or even inflict physical harm on the shop owner and its officers. And this will create another round of economic uncertainties from the micro to the macro levels.

While the impeachment trial is sometimes billed as a trial for good governance, there is reason to consider that this is also a big fight between the leaders of two branches of a “big” government, the President and the Chief Justice, respectively.

There is too much political and economic power in the hands of the government and its three branches - the power to impose and implement various regulations, prohibitions and taxation in the lives of the people. It is that big power, and the discretionary power whether to fully apply or exempt certain laws on certain people, that attract many of the shrewdest, the most clever among us to be in government, in any or all of the three branches.

The Senate as a political and not judicial institution - and the senators as elected not appointed officials - have a big stake in promulgating the rule of law and ensuring economic stability in the country.

A society and government that promulgates the rule of law will deter the shrewd and opportunistic from joining the government. Or deter the good guys there from becoming bad guys later. This is because of a greater certainty of discovery of a crime and punishment of the violators.

If existing institutions are doing their job well, then there is no need to keep expanding the government. We will ultimately have a lean, minimal and trustworthy government. A government that expands, not restricts, individual freedom; and a government that gives more personal responsibility to people in running their lives.

See also:
Corona Trial 1: Impeaching the SC Chief Justice, December 13, 2011
Corona Trial 2: Impeachment for Beginners, December 14, 2011
Weekend Fun 29: Corona Impeachment Cartoons, March 02, 2012 
Corona Trial 3: Impeachment, the Senate and the Supreme Court, May 20, 2012
Corona Trial 4: Walkout at the Senate, May 22, 2012
Corona Trial 5: Walk out from the Senate, Walk in to the Hospital, May 23, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Corona Trial 5: Walk out from the Senate, Walk in to the Hospital

Here's a guest post from a fellow UP alumni, Jack. He wrote this last night, or a few hours after the Corona walkout drama at the senate. Good humor and nice insights.

No Reason Why Not to Like Corona

by Jack
22 May 2012

I like the points Corona made. I learned so much today from him and his testimony. Some parts confused me a bit so I may need good old Gary O to enlighten us on our confusion.

Points that proved interesting in his "Opening (and Maybe already his Closing) Statement:

1. He does have dollar accounts.

2. He has had it since the 1960s and just kept adding. He said the reason why they became quite substantial is because there have been numerous devaluations. Before, it was only P2 to 1$US. Today, it is P43 to $1 US. (I got a bit confused here and he lost me somewhere. If you had $10,000 in your bank account in 1962 when it was P2 to $1 US, how much would you have in 2011 when it is now P43.00 to $1US.

I thought you would still have only S10,000 plus the accumulated interest right? I think the CJ thought that mathematically, because of the devaluations, the dollar amount would also balloon. Maybe I failed some of my Eco subjects. Tere, help! UPSEAA Economists, help us in understanding this please. )

3. I found it also a great revelation that Dollar Accounts, basing on CJ's testimony SHOULD NOT be declared in the SALN. Why? Because he says this is covered by the bank secrecy law. I thought that the SALN meant you had to add all your cash whether it is in dollars, renminbi, yen, pesos rupee, zlotys or whatever. total that and put its equivalent peso value in the Assets column of the SALN. But then, I could be wrong kasi retired na ako from the Department of Agriculture many many years ago. Maybe they changed the rules somewhere.

3a. I found his reasons for not declaring it also interesting. Declaring such dollar accounts would be a VIOLATION of the Foreign Currency Secrecy Law so being the Chief Justice, he did not WANT TO BREAK THE LAW. (Don't you just love it!) Interestingly, when he entered government, he didn't declare it. Sayang, if he did so nobody would be asking him anything now.

3b. His second reason was even more interesting. He didn't declare it because everyone doesn't declare it. Just to prove this point, he challenged all 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint and Senator Drilon to sign their own similar waivers. simultaneously with him. Or else, he said, I am not a fool and not being a fool, no waivers from them, no waivers from me. I love it. Its like games we used to play as kids. If caught in a bind, just stick out your tongue and say to everyone.... belat! Or could we say he even turned Biblical as he seemed to be paraphrasing John 8:7 from the Bible "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

4, As early as 4 pm, his strategy was unfolding as clear as day. Just ramble on with his "opening (and maybe even closing) statement", let things drag on and delay and delay and delay so no one can ask questions. I think what many pundits expected him to do was after three hours of rambling statements, say Whew!, that was hard on my health. Could we just postpone till tomorrow, then rush to the hospital and the next day wear a neck brace and sit on a wheel chair and says, oops. I can't go and testify! What no one expected was that he would walk out slowly, premeditatedly, actually still looking really healthy, try to rush to his vehicle and then when stopped by the Sgt. at Arms' people, suddenly develop low sugar levels and return in a wheelchair looking like he got the short end of the stick from Claudine Barreto and Raymart Santiago.

5. Re Basa Guidote, in one breath, he says it is a family feud and yes, he did admit that his wife and his daughter managed to get ownership of the corporation for P28,000 which he says is much more that the original incorporation value of P21,000 (even though the value of the corporation is P34 million). Again somewhere, I got lost here. He says that Carla, his daughter is the owner of Basa Guidote. But, the funds are in Renato Corona's peso accounts. In one breath, he says, he and his daughter are different entities because if they were the same, then the sale of Cristina to Carla does not count and is a fraudulent sale. Then in the next breath, he admits they are in his peso account. Also, shouldn't the right entry have been Assets: Cash in SALN 37 million, Liabilities in SALN 34 million.

5. He showed he had balls. No one can turn his back on the Senate President and the impeachment court. Everyone cowers in fear. But, the CJ did it. Am not sure though if he was ready for JPE's quick reply to lockdown the building and prevent his departure.

6. Tomorrow is another day. Like i said from the very beginning of all these posts, no one wants to convict an honest man. CJ still has tomorrow to pop up. We hope he does. Like everyone of the 90 million Pinoys who want Jessica Sanchez to win tomorrow, we want to know the truth and listen to his answers to the questions. But then on the other hand, we cannot be sure if the Senate President's threats are exactly what the Defense wants. Maybe the defense thinks its okay to have his testimony stricken out. Anyway, he had already said it and maybe, this will give enough reasons for their allies in the Senate to say.... aha! There is reasonable doubt. ACQUIT!

Seriously though, I hope his advisers do convince him to come back to the Senate and instead of a walk-out do a walk-in. The nation wants answers. Everyone is willing to give him a chance to speak out and sort it out.

Socialized Healthcare 5: Alterrnative Views on Universal Healthcare

Rights should always be coupled with responsibilities. Some people agree by saying that "With greater rights and freedom comes greater responsibilities." That is one way of saying it; another way is "With greater (personal) responsibilities comes greater (personal/individual) freedom." As Friedrich Hayek said, "People who are afraid of responsibilities are afraid of freedom itself."

In many discussions on health policy, what is often asserted and formulated is that "health is a right" and hence, "universal healthcare is a right." I have no problem with this formulation if this should also be added, that "health is a responsibility", and I am referring to individual (and parental/guardian, civil society, community) responsibility, not just government responsibility as is commonly understood. Thus, "health is a right, health is a responsibility" is easily intertwined.

Below are three articles in BusinessWorld by one of my friends in the local health sector, Reiner Gloor, Executive Director of PHAP, on universal healthcare. I agree with many -- but not all -- of his arguments here. I can sympathize with greater government health support and subsidy for the poor suffering from infectious or communicable and tropical diseases. But I have little or no sympathy for government subsidy for lifestyle-related diseases like illnesses due to heavy smoking, heavy drinking, heavy eating of fatty or junk foods, heavy sitting or sedentary lifestyle.

Reiner is speaking from a private sector and civil society point of view, not government's. So these papers have a balanced perspective on the issue of universal healthcare.


April 27, 2012

Medicine Cabinet -- Reiner W. Gloor

Universal health care coverage provides safety net for the poor


For many poor people, health has become a difficult economic choice between getting better or poorer.
Often characterized by high out-of-pocket spending, health financing systems in low- and middle-income countries have contributed to the vicious cycle where diseases worsen poverty, while at the same time, poverty results in rising incidence of diseases.

The World Health Report 2010 estimated that about 150 million people globally suffer financial catastrophe when they avail of health services. Similarly, 100 million people are pushed into poverty due to direct out-of-pocket spending.

In the Asia-Pacific region alone, about 80 million people experience financial catastrophe and 50 million others are impoverished due to health payments.

These happen since in low- and middle-income countries, health is paid for privately or mainly from out-of-pocket health care systems. The same is true for the Philippines that reported a private out-of-pocket share of 54.3% while government funding was 26.2% and social insurance, 8.5%.

This was validated by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey of Filipinos on Health Services and Financing which revealed that for those who have consulted a doctor when they were sick, seven out of 10 of them paid from their own pockets.

The video documentary, "The Road to Universal Health Coverage", emphasized that when households spend a substantial part of their income on health, the results can be catastrophic.

In fact, the same SWS survey disclosed that almost three out 10 Filipinos deferred visits to doctors even if they were sick because they felt that they cannot afford to pay for health care. Seven out 10 respondents also believed that many families get impoverished when a member gets sick and has to be hospitalized.

In shielding families from financial catastrophe and other disastrous social outcomes of direct out-of-pocket health payments, the video documentary highlighted the pressing need for countries to adopt and implement financing strategies leading to universal health coverage.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Corona Trial 4: Walkout at the Senate

(Note: original title of this paper was "Rule of Law 16: CJ Corona Appearance and Trial at the Senate")

I was hooked on twitter this afternoon, on the appearance for the first time of Chief Justice Corona at his impeachment trial at the Senate. Sooooo many tweets. Anyway, here are my own tweets.

Nonoy Oplas ‏@Noysky
@likhanews5 @interaksyon Walang katulong si Corona, tama yon, minsan naghugas ako ng pinggan sa house nila, P100/hr bayad nila sa akin :-)

Nonoy Oplas ‏@Noysky
@I_amHolohttps #CoronaTrial Mahirap si Corona, kapitbahay ko sa kabilang apartment sa brgy san antonio makati, P10k/mo lang rental namin

Defense camp: Boss CJ, di umubra iyak, change gear tayo, ratatat counter-arguments naman @CJonTrial

@likhanews5 @interaksyon Suggested news headline: CJ is Christ. He is poor, he cries, and he has Corona.

@likhanews5 @interaksyon Corona opening speech 1 day long. Dean M.Leonen says other cases, accused cant speak but through answers to Qs.

@likhanews5 #CJontrial If you're a CJ, no need to steal even P1. You can sell a SC decision to highest bidder and earn millions.

@levenezu He didnt practice in front of mirror, he's following Lady Gaga's song Poker Face, do poker & gambling on pub sympathy #CJonTrial

@likhanews5 @interaksyon I think CJ watched Lady Gaga's concert last night, he liked d song Judas-as, he now refers to LRA, PNoy, prosec.

Boo Chanco ‏@boochanco
kadali palang magtago ng fruits of corruption basta ma-convert lang sa dollars confidential na.
Retweeted by Nonoy Oplas

Cesar Purisima ‏@CVP1960
I am a diabetic myself, if my sugar is low, I am disoriented and will not be able to walk the way CJ did
Retweeted by Nonoy Oplas

Nonoy Oplas ‏@Noysky
@likhanews5 @interaksyon Everyone in govt on trial, great! Many people there dont want to be tried, we abolish many agencies & bureaucrats.

@interaksyon @likhanews5 Headline, "CJ gaya-gaya: drama ni Lady Gaga, powerpoint ni Conchita, wheelchair ni Gloria, low blood ni Purisima::)

Cesar Purisima ‏@CVP1960
Telling the truth should not be stressful; it's when you say things other than the truth when you get stressed
Retweeted by Nonoy Oplas

Nonoy Oplas ‏@Noysky
Corona's theme song: "I want to break free" Prosecution's song: "Ma-ma-ma-My Corona" Enrile's Song: "I want it all:"

More songs by Corona at the Senate: "Breakthrough", "Dont stop me now", "Drowse", "It's a hard life", "I go crazy" (all by The Queen)

Enrile's songs for Corona (all from d Queen): Action this day, Bring back that Leroy Brown, Don't lose your head, Don't try suicide.

Corona's songs how to escape fr d Senate, all fr Queen: Bicycle race, Coming soon, Dragon attack, Escape from the swamp, Flash to the rescue

Defense' songs for Corona, all fr Queen: Hang on in there, Im going slightly mad, Keep yourself alive, Loser in the end, The show must go on

Mrs. Corona's songs to CJ, fr the Queen: Fun it, Lost opportunity, Play the game, These are the days of our lives, Who needs you? You and I.

See also:
Corona Trial 1: Impeaching the SC Chief Justice, December 13, 2011
Corona Trial 2: Impeachment for Beginners, December 14, 2011
Weekend Fun 29: Corona Impeachment Cartoons, March 02, 2012 
Corona Trial 3: Impeachment, the Senate and the Supreme Court, May 20, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012

CSOs and State 14: Lady Gaga and the Intolerant Religious Groups

One indicator of the corruption of civil society organizations (CSOs) and NGOs is that they think that for most if not all problems in society, the solution is more government. If they do not like a particular group to do a concert for instance, they want the government to come in, intervene and ban such concert.

This is the case of the Lady Gaga concert in Manila today and tomorrow. A religious NGO called "BibleMode International" held rallies at Manila City Hall and perhaps other places, asking the natinoal government, later the local government, to cancel or ban the scheduled concert of Lady Gaga because they think the famous singer is "Anti-Christian, Anti-Jesus Christ".

Good thing that the national government did not dip its fingers on this issue. The Vincenton Post made a harsh criticism of these groups in its post,  TO HELL WITH YOUR GOD!.

I think the original plan was a one-day concert only, but with heavy demand, the organizers opened a second night concert, same venue.

The producers in their pomotion Born This Way Ball Tour: Lady Gaga Live in Manila 2012 described the artist as
Gaga was named Forbes’ Most Powerful Woman in the World 2011 and was included in Time’s annual “The 2010 Time 100″ list of the most influential people in the world. With over 2.2 billion combined views of all her videos online, Lady Gaga is one of the biggest living people on Facebook with over 47 million ‘likes’ and is #1 on Twitter with nearly 19 million followers. Lady Gaga is the only artist in the digital era to top the 5 million sales mark with her first two hits.

Ticket prices (inclusive of VAT, entertainment tax, other local government taxes and fees) are expensive. For foreigners, the PHP to US$ exchange rate as of last Friday was P43.20/$.

PATRON Standing – P15,840
LOWER BOX Reserved Seats - P11,620
LOWER BOX (Persons w/ Disability) Standing – P11,620
UPPER BOX (Free Seating) – P5,280
UPPER BOX (Persons w/ Disability) Standing – P5,280
GENERAL ADMISSION (Free Seating) – P2,120
GENERAL ADMISSION (Persons w/ Disability) Standing – P2,120

So the highest ticket prices are sold at $367 equivalent, the cheapest at $49.

A friend in my UPSE alumni association yahoogroups, Jack, made this observation:

Is it the function of government to ban these shows. Several from the religious right and several of our church leaders have called for a ban on these concerts claiming that Lady Gaga's music represent "godlessness" and is "blasphemous". A friend tells me that in a mass he attended yesterday, there was a circular and a sermon made by the clergy against her concert. No other Southeast Asian country, except for Indonesia, has imposed a ban on her concert. Her tour took her to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and after the Philippines, will take her to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore,
Although we respect every citizen's right to practice their religious beliefs, I think we must draw the line against censorship. Lest we go back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition.
No one is forcing anyone to go watch her concert so these efforts to ban her show are really upsetting. I don't really know much of her music but efforts to ban her concert do not make us any different from the Taliban in Afghanistan. Or could this be the Orwellian 1984 nightmare, happening in 2012 to the Philippines.
It speaks well of the P-Noy administration that they didn't get drawn into this and they took a stand that there will be no ban, there will be stopping her concert.
Otherwise, we go down again worldwide into infamy. A ban on Lady Gaga will erase all the goodwill Jessica Sanchez is creating for the Philippines in American Idol. Or the gains Charisse, Manny Pacquiao, Eric Spoelstra coach of Miami Heat have done for us. Oops, sorry, Pacquiao just erased himself with his religiously intolerant attack on gay couples. We are already famous for having Marcos' thugs beat up the Beatles when they did a concert in Manila just because they were so tired and couldn't make the instant reception Ferdie and Meldy wanted to host for them. We are also (in)famous for some grandstanding and politicos and again the clergy who called for a ban of The Da Vinci Code. It's More Fun in the Philippines. They beat up mopheads, boycott Lady Gaga and the Da Vinci Code, our most famous boxer is against gays and they threaten to excommunicate you, even if you are the President of the Republic, if you are for the RH bill.

I like Jack's title, that somehow summarizes his argument -- Going gago over Gaga. People who want to bring in the government to intervene even for the most banal issue that may touch their ideological or religious bigotry are indeed gago.

The easier way for them to handle this, and allother related issues, would have been to campaign for a boycott of Lady Gaga's concert, period. Do not bring in the government to intervene and ban the concert.

It's another thing if the city government of Cebu or Pasay or other LGUs, or the DOT or other national government agencies, would sponsor this concert using taxpayers' money and hence, money collected via coercion, then private citizens and civil society groups should rally another government agency to cancel or ban that concert.

Government should focus on going after killers, murderers, thieves, rapists, extortionists, bank robbers, kidnappers, land grabbers, other criminals. What we have now is government failure in doing this important function, because government focus is more on running universities, banks, corporations, casino, pension fund, etc., and in creating various regulations, restrictions, prohibitions and taxation.

We live in modern times where diversity and spontaneity is the rule, not the exception. This demands more tolerance -- personal, religious, cultural, political, economic tolerance. The reason why millions of Filipinos were able to study, work and live in other countries is because the people of those countries have somehow tolerated Filipinos and other migrants into their society. The same way, there are more Koreans, Chinese, Japs, Europeans, Americans etc. who work and live here, because they find that their culture, religious belief, personal idiosyncracies, are tolerated here.

More tolerance means more peace, more businesses, more economic growth.

More intolerance -- like those gago who want the government to ban the Lady Gaga concert -- more disorder, more bigotry and hypocrisy, less businesses, less economic growth.

Finally, the role of CSOs is to help educate people towards self-reliance and independence from the State, being an institution of coercion. More CSOs should mean less government, not more.

See also:
CSOs and State 10: The Role of Civil Society, June 15, 2010

Pol. Ideology 30: Federalism, Debt and Civil Society

This is my article yesterday in the online magazine,

The photos here are not part of the original article.

Putting high emphasis on one form of government tend to blind people into glorifying one form over another, hoping that such change in political structure will deliver the necessary development to the economy and the rest of society. This is wrong.

The form of government – presidential vs. parliamentary, federalism vs. unitary, centralization vs. decentralization, and so on – only gives different flesh and structures to the type of coercion that the state has over the individuals. This is because government, by nature, is coercion. And coercion takes various forms – regulations, restrictions, prohibitions, taxation, mandatory fees and contributions. There is a reverse side – subsidies, welfare, expansion of government size and bureaucracy. But the latter is made possible only by the taxation and mandatory fees and contribution that the government imposes on the people, especially the industrious and productive sectors of society.

I attended a round table discussion last Friday “Federalism and Autonomy: Exploring Political Structural Solutions to the Mindanao Conflict” at the UP Third World Studies Center, Diliman campus. The main speaker was Dr. George Anderson of the UN Mediation Support Unit and a former Deputy Minister for Intergovernmental (1996-2002) and of Natural Resources Canada (2002-06). He also wrote several books on federalism.

The panel of reactors were distinguished academics, like former UP President, Dr. Jose Abueva, Prof. Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), and Dr. Alex Brillantes, Prof. and former Dean of UP NCPAG. The moderator was Prof. Herman Kraft of the UP Political Science Department.

I came late to the seminar and was not able to see Dr. Anderson’s presentation, but I was able to catch the main arguments during the reactors’ time and the open forum.

During the open forum, I argued my skepticism or indifference on one form of government over another as I think that governments, in most cases, are institutions of waste. The high public debt of many governments now, both poor and industrialized, is one clear example of such wastefulness. Because public debt is nothing but an accumulation of wastes and inefficiencies by governments. If projects and various welfare programs were indeed spent productively, then the subsidized public and bureaucracies would have become productive enough to pay those past debts, but this did not happen.

See table below. I did not mention these data as I only created this table while writing this article, and it should help illustrate my points above.

Source: IMF, World Economic Outlook (WEO) Database, April 2012,

Of the 23 countries listed above, 17 have public debt 40 percent of GDP or higher. Take note too that these are debts only of the federal government. The states and local governments under the federal government also have their own set of public debts. So when these are added to the federal debt, the numbers would significantly rise.

I also mentioned in my comment during the open forum that what many ordinary people would refer to as decentralization does not necessarily mean assignment of functions from the central or national government to the local and state governments. Rather, they mean transfer of functions to non-government bodies like civil society organizations and the business sectors.

For instance, maintenance of peace and order now in the shops, malls, banks, residential/office buildings, universities, etc is done more by the private security agencies, not by the police and other government forces. The body that builds more cost-effective housing for the poor is not the National Housing Authority or other government agencies but Gawad Kalinga, an NGO.

So instead of expanding government at the national or local level, it would help if government should step back in certain sectors, and give more space for civil society and the private sector to do development work in society.

Dr. Anderson and Dr. Abueva obviously did not favor my suggestion as they said that there is a big role for government to develop society, we only need to make it more efficient and more accountable to the people. Dr. Anderson added that at Philippine government spending of about 14 percent of GDP is definitely not “big” compared to many developed governments like Canada and continental Europe where public spending is 40 percent of GDP or higher. He has a point there because in those governments, even buses are owned by the government, here buses are entirely private and they compete with each other a lot. But we should not forget that the 14 or 17 percent of GDP Philippine government spending applies only to the national government. The local governments (provinces, cities and municipalities, barangays) have their own extra spending as they have extra sources of revenues, especially the rich city governments in Metro Manila and other highly urbanized cities in the provinces.

I believe that as citizens are becoming more empowered with more information, they become more educated and more innovative in finding private solutions to private problems, or civil society solutions to ordinary community issues and problems. The worsening debt turmoil in Europe, especially the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) that incidentally are all parliamentary governments, and the economic uncertainty they bring to the regional and global economy, is additional proof that free individuals should take more responsibility in running their own lives and that of their households and communities. Relying more on governments, federal or unitary or other forms, will only prolong the economic agony for all.

See also:
Pol. Ideology 25: On Governance and Rule of Law, February 20, 2012
Pol. Ideology 26: Socialists in a Liberal Government, February 21, 2012 
Pol. Ideology 27: Why do Many Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?, March 01, 2012
Pol. Ideology 29: Raison d 'Etre of Government, May 20, 2012