Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Victory Liner seeks tax breaks for electric buses

Alena Mae S. Flores
Manila Standard

Newgen Electric Technologies Inc., a unit of Victory Liner Inc., is seeking duty-free importation and tax breaks for the entry of its first electric bus into the country.

Newgen president Jan Kierulf, director for research and development of Victory Liner, said in a statement the Energy Department endorsed to the Finance Department the request of Newgen to bring an electric bus at zero taxes and duties.

Almendras said the Newgen’s plans was aligned with the department’s own thrust to promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles.

Almendras also expressed his support for Newgen’s electric bus project in a recent forum in Cebu as the project is expected to spur the creation of a local electric bus manufacturing industry.

Kierulf wrote Almendras in June, seeking the department’s help in asking Finance to waive the taxes and duties associated with the importation of an electric bus.

Kierulf said the first bus that Newgen wanted to bring into the country would serve as the “proof of concept” for investors who might want to produce electric buses locally.

He said investments in the assembly of such buses here would not only help boost the use of electric vehicles in the country, but also pave the way for possible electric bus exports.

Locally assembled electric buses could be used to ply selected routes in Metro Manila, he said, under a joint program between Victory Liner and the Climate Change Commission.

He said this would help address the metro’s air pollution problem and meet the department’s goal of reducing the use of fossil fuels in the public transport sector.

“We welcome the DoE’s endorsement of our request to the DoF to waive the taxes and duties on the electric bus that we’ll be bringing into the country. We hope the DoF will see the value of our request, as this could possibly give rise to a local electric bus manufacturing industry that will generate hundreds of new jobs for Filipinos,” said Kierulf.

“What we really want is to encourage other companies to invest in electric bus manufacturing here. We want to see the Philippines as a key player in the electric bus industry, and not just an importer of already assembled electric buses. We have the capability. We just need government support,” he added.

Project delays cost govt P7b in losses, Neda says

by Christine F. Herrera
Manila Standard

Slow progress and cost overruns plague major projects funded by official development assistance

THE delays in at least 15 foreign loan-funded infrastructure projects have cost the government P7 billion in losses as a result of cost overruns, the National Economic and Development Authority says in a recent report, a copy of which was obtained by the Manila Standard.

In the report dated Aug. 22, Neda Director Roderick Planta says in awarding the contracts, the Public Works Department insisted that the pricing be based on 2002 levels, a move that delayed the procurement of civil works.

As a result, Planta says, the P9.94-billion Urgent Bridges Construction Project for Rural Development financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency was only 91 percent complete, even though the funds had been used up and the loan was considered closed in September 2011.

The Neda also listed as “critical” the P7.35-billion Presidential Bridge for Farmers Project, a United Kingdom-assisted project also under the Public Works Department, that had the “supply and services contract terminated.”

The agency also raised a warning over the P4.2-billion French-funded Presidential Bridge for Farms after “no activity” was noted in the first six months of the year.

As of June 30, 2011, 15 of the 19 bridges were still on the drawing board. The delayed civil works was attributed to “unsuitability of the project design to local sites and delayed design preparation in some sites.”

The 15 “critical projects” with Alert Level II status had a total cost of $1.62 billion (P70.05 billion at P43.55 to the dollar).

The Neda says that as of June 30, 2011, those projects already had incurred a 10-percent cost overrun, or about P7 billion.

Six of the 15 critical projects are being undertaken by the Public Works Department.

Three more projects, including The President’s Bridge, were given “Alert Level 1 Status” because of potential similar problems of delays being encountered by the 15 critical projects.

At least 13 more projects were identified as “potential problem projects” that could be elevated to Alert Level 1 Status if no progress was made by end of the year.

In all, the 31 infrastructure projects that were experiencing slow progress and delays, and 30 more that were still on schedule, had a total cost of $8.31 billion or P361.9 billion.

“Around 20 percent or one out of five ODA [overseas development assistance] projects is on critical level,” the Neda report says.

“The 18 ‘actual problem projects’ (15 critical or Alert Level II and three early warning or Alert Level I) are those that are actually encountering serious problems, as manifested by these projects breaching thresholds of at least two indicator categories,” Planta says.

The four indicator categories for identifying actual problem projects include leading indicators on financial, physical, cost overruns and project completion, he says.

“The 13 potential problem projects are programs and projects that are considered at risk based on a checklist of project variables and characteristics that historically result in major implementation problems,” Planta says.

“The alert status of loan-assisted projects are brought to the attention of concerned stakeholders.”

Occupy personal responsibility

Business Mirror

THE current protests around the world under the banner of “Occupy” shows that a large number of people have descended into the depths of psychosis. Psychosis is a loss of contact with reality, usually including false beliefs about what is taking place.

That may be strong language but how else do you explain this. Americans protest against US companies setting up factories (or call centers) in countries like the Philippines and people in those same countries protest “foreign economic plunder” by US corporations. How can they both be right?

Doesn’t the gross hypocrisy of protesting at an event set up on Facebook, talking on an iPhone while wearing Nike shoes and using a McDonald’s toilet sink in even a little bit?

One conspiracy theory is that the global economic crisis has been created by the banks and governments to move the world into a “New World Order” of a single global government and a single economic system.

Or maybe personal greed and a lack of personal responsibility is the cause of these problems.

I find it difficult to hold any sympathy for an American that complains about being $100,000 in debt for a student loan to pay for tuition. America used to have one of the greatest higher-level educational systems in the world. Two-year community colleges were almost free. A part-time job at a fast-food restaurant would provide all the funding a student needed while living at home. I know. I did it.

How could anyone in his right mind (not being psychotic) believe it made sense to borrow, at 18 years old, enough money to buy a house to finance an education? It was the government. The US Higher Education Act of 1965 created a system including low-interest loans, grants to schools, and scholarships that, in effect, took personal responsibility to pay for an education away from students.

Governments created the US and European housing bubble by taking away the hard choices that responsible people ought to have to make. No longer did people have to ask, “Can I afford it?” Governments made the choice for them through incentive programs that made it seem stupid not to borrow. “Afford” was not part of the decision- making process anymore.

The wave of government control of economies and lives took a great leap forward in the 1960s. The people were told that government was better able to make the difficult decisions. Like sheep to the slaughter, the people marched to the governments’ drum beat.

No one truly knows who wrote the following but this summarizes the road to the current disaster. “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury.”

Everyone got on board; financial institutions, corporations and individuals. Laws were passed so that every one of these entities was able to profit.

While some of the protests are directed toward governments such as in Greece and Italy, it is not anger at what the governments have done to create the problem; it is anger that the governments cannot continue to be their “sugar daddy.”

The one basic theme of the “Occupiers,” both here and abroad, is that they want the government to do something about the problems. Why is it that these people look to the government for solutions?

What successful solutions has the “government” ever provided? I wish they could name just one.

The “Occupy Wall Street” crowd did offer a great benefit to the Philippines. One demand was that all international debt be forgiven. Both the Philippine government and the Freedom From Debt Coalition could get behind that idea. The house of cards would fall wonderfully. The US banks holding Philippine “debt would fail.” “Wall Street” would not be able to be one of the largest campaign donors to Obama and the other politicians. The Philippine activists would not have worry about “foreign investors that foster sweatshops” in the outsourcing industry.

The bottom line, though, comes down to the people allowing their governments to take over their lives, which is where the disconnect with reality sets in.

California just passed a law that forbids children under 18 from visiting a tanning salon even with parent’s consent. Yet, a girl under 18 years can have an abortion without informing her parents.

The people have let the governments take control. The global economic disaster is one result of giving up personal responsibility.

On a personal note; “Outside the Box” columns are archived at mangunonmarkets.com.

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