May 26, 2017

Are taxes on petrol correctly used? Repatriation of what “cash”? End users/payers of infrastructure should be present

Sir, Gillian Tett, discussing the financing of president Trump’s plan for infrastructure writes: “One sensible, overdue step would be to raise the petrol tax to pay for infrastructure; another would be to use proceeds from repatriated overseas corporate cash.” “Private money might yet save Trump’s infrastructure plans” May 26.

First, more taxes on petrol just means that more money goes into the same fiscal pocket to be channeled in often quite non-transparent ways to uses that might or might not include the building of infrastructure. The best use of taxes, such as those on petrol, which by the way constitutes de facto a discriminatory import tax on gas, is to transparently help fund a Universal Basic Income scheme.

Second, “cash”, what cash? Could Ms. Tett believe that high denomination bills stored under corporate treasurers’ mattresses represent that cash? Before opining anything about what “cash” could do, I suggest she finds out how that “cash” is currently deployed. Who knows, it might all be invested in gilts.

Finally, I have witnessed decent privatizations and infrastructure PPPs in my life, but I have also seen those that are only ugly expressions of crony statism. In this respect at the negotiation and executions phases of any privatization, any public infrastructure project, or any PPP, future users, or otherwise payers for the projects or the services, should be present… and their names publicly recorded as having represented the citizens.

Too often most of us see something very wrong that makes us reflect: “This would not have been the case had my grandfather or grandmother overlooked what was going on.”