ASEAN MPs Tax Justice Conference in Jakarta; and TPP agreement
I was in Jakarta for 3 days. I was joined by Malaysian MPs, YB Charles Santiago of DAP and YB Hanipa Maidin of Amanah. We met our Indonesian, Thai, Singaporean and Cambodian colleagues there.
We had a hectic schedule with 9 topics to cover including double taxation, trade mispricing and fiscal policies. My wife had asked me to get her favourite ginger sweets.
There were about 18 MPs and influential politicians from ASEAN in this conference on Tax Justice. Another 20 plus people from NGOs were also here to run workshops.
YB Charles Santiago delivered the first speech of the day. YB Hanipa and myself also chaired a forum on double taxation.
Both YB Charles and I are in the TPPA caucus and it is somewhat ironic that we were discussing the dangers of TPPA with our Thai and Indonesian counterparts, when the news came through.
Yesterday’s signing of the TPPA in Atlanta was a major blow to us who oppose it. However it also means that the government can no longer hide the texts and cost benefit studies from the people. How transparent will the government be moving forward?
Najib and Obama are celebrating, for now. Obama will soon face the Senate whereas Najib will bring the matter to Parliament for a “public relations” exercise, because unlike Obama, Najib is empowered to sign trade agreement without Parliament approval. The special Parliament sitting to discuss TPPA (but no power to block) is slated to take place in January 2016.
Day 2 of my conference on Tax Justice in Jakarta focused on gender equality. I was seated with a Singaporean woman MP and also a Thai woman MP. In the Malaysian Parliament, we have a 11% woman representation. Singapore and Indonesia are both at 20% and Thailand 18%. So we are somewhat backward in political gender equality.
The funny thing about Thailand though, according to the Thai MP, is that a few of the women MPs are in fact proxy to their husband or father who have been banned from politics.
On Day 3, Indonesian MP Henky Kuniardi presented his views of economics. Henky is telling a narrative of how Indon senior servants were trained in US which resulted in neoliberal trickle down economics plus the believe to nurture conglomerates. These policies however resulted in monopolies and massive inequality. This corrupt economic system caused the downfall of Suharto.
The MP advises all nations not to blindly follow economic models from the West but to find our own paths based on social justice and democracy. The philosophy must be right foremost before any implementation.
He also said that the German tax model actively encourage each citizens upon birth, to have a tax identification. This system essentially plants the seed in every citizen since birth, that there is a social contract of tax and accountable governance.
It was a good three days here and the main message is ASEAN needs greater cooperation to prevent a race to the bottom tax war which will only benefit foreign companies.