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EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

January 15, 2016

EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Magandang gabi! Good evening!

 

It’s dusk time as I write, and this dusk at a time of intensifying monsoon rains seems to bode images of a grim future for the West at large. The European Union or EU members and the USA, the gigantic pillars of the global economy, are particularly in dire straits as they have entered the zone of flat growth and perpetual recession.

 

As already tackled by me in diverse articles, the East is surging forward bringing life to the global economy as a whole. In contrast, the West is spiraling downwards, and the strategies their stakeholders are putting into place to arrest the downslide are at best palliative. As the East continues to surge upward, the West continues to stagnate and decay.

 

After World War II, both Europe and America embarked on massive infrastructures and heated industrialization that saw both economies dominating the global economy’s wealth production. The result of that was an OECD producing 60% of Gross World Product or GWP for some decades (today that’s down to 40% of GWP and will still go down).

 

That was the situation back then. By the 1990s, the situation had been badly reversed as a result of liberal economic policies instituted in the previous decade (80s). The rise of a ‘virtual economy’ dominated by predatory finance was instrumental in the West’s massive de-industrialization, decay of relatively unattended infrastructures, decline in science & technology research, and neglect of the transport sector (only Japan & Germany were actively pursuing maglev railways).

 

By the early 1990s yet, certain experts among economists and sociologists in America began echoing alarming notes about the possible downslide of the USA into a 3rd world country should the economic decay, such as that of relatively unattended infrastructures, be allowed to continue till past 2010s.

 

In the late 1990s, my own circle of political economists in Manila (Sunday Kapihan/Independent Review) saw such a possibility ourselves as we consolidated the data made available to us thanks to the internet. By 1998 all fellows of our circle were convinced of the catastrophic direction that the USA and Europe were plunging themselves into, which could begin with a depression past 2005 and a thirdworldization by 2010s (both have been hit by recession this decade as a matter of fact).

 

When Katrina struck the USA and when those floods struck Europe just a few years back, and the same free market policies stubbornly remained in place, I knew the downslide would turn out to be irreversible. The fate of New Orleans, with its residents lining up for food akin to a depressed city, revealed an appallingly decayed 3rd world city inside the USA which, to my mind, is but a fractional tip of a gigantic iceberg that are America’s decaying cities on the way to 3rd world infamy.

 

If, for instance, just about 55% of the top 700 cities of the USA will be so badly decayed by 2015 and be declared as 3rd world or ‘developing cities’, then we know more or less that America had catastrophically seen its worst state. With 97% of U.S. population living in cities (urban), likewise will the whole of the USA be declared as a ‘developing economy’ as early as 2015.

 

That is, again, if the destructive ‘virtual economy’ policies will not be taken down and reversed sweepingly. As I’ve declared in previous articles before (when Obama was still campaigning for the presidency), America must quickly return to a New Deal-type policy regime: interventionist, with great stress on revivifying infrastructures, revitalizing transport R&D (railways, shipping, etc), upscaling science & technology investments (including rockets), returning heavy industries (revive steel and many dead manufactures), and ensuring agricultural productivity.

 

Europe is not far behind such near-catastrophic downslide of the USA, just to remind our friends in Europe and the globe. Decisively institute interventionist policies in the continent, regulate the financial-banking sectors (criminalize predatory finance), and revivify social policy that were hallmarks of a once strong and mighty European economy.

 

And there’s no better time to act then now. Failure to act soon, by stubbornly instituting the palliatives (e.g. bailing out failing big banks, semi-regulating stock exchange), will be the best sure-fire formula to see a rapid thirdworldization of the West.

 

Before long, some messianic mad leaders in both continents would be drum-beating their being “stubbed behind the back” and generate new Hitlers and Bonapartes in their backyards. Act now, Western peoples, to avoid this eventuality from ever taking place at all.

 

[Philippines, 21 July 2010]

 

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EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

January 15, 2016

EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Magandang gabi! Good evening!

 

It’s dusk time as I write, and this dusk at a time of intensifying monsoon rains seems to bode images of a grim future for the West at large. The European Union or EU members and the USA, the gigantic pillars of the global economy, are particularly in dire straits as they have entered the zone of flat growth and perpetual recession.

 

As already tackled by me in diverse articles, the East is surging forward bringing life to the global economy as a whole. In contrast, the West is spiraling downwards, and the strategies their stakeholders are putting into place to arrest the downslide are at best palliative. As the East continues to surge upward, the West continues to stagnate and decay.

 

After World War II, both Europe and America embarked on massive infrastructures and heated industrialization that saw both economies dominating the global economy’s wealth production. The result of that was an OECD producing 60% of Gross World Product or GWP for some decades (today that’s down to 40% of GWP and will still go down).

 

That was the situation back then. By the 1990s, the situation had been badly reversed as a result of liberal economic policies instituted in the previous decade (80s). The rise of a ‘virtual economy’ dominated by predatory finance was instrumental in the West’s massive de-industrialization, decay of relatively unattended infrastructures, decline in science & technology research, and neglect of the transport sector (only Japan & Germany were actively pursuing maglev railways).

 

By the early 1990s yet, certain experts among economists and sociologists in America began echoing alarming notes about the possible downslide of the USA into a 3rd world country should the economic decay, such as that of relatively unattended infrastructures, be allowed to continue till past 2010s.

 

In the late 1990s, my own circle of political economists in Manila (Sunday Kapihan/Independent Review) saw such a possibility ourselves as we consolidated the data made available to us thanks to the internet. By 1998 all fellows of our circle were convinced of the catastrophic direction that the USA and Europe were plunging themselves into, which could begin with a depression past 2005 and a thirdworldization by 2010s (both have been hit by recession this decade as a matter of fact).

 

When Katrina struck the USA and when those floods struck Europe just a few years back, and the same free market policies stubbornly remained in place, I knew the downslide would turn out to be irreversible. The fate of New Orleans, with its residents lining up for food akin to a depressed city, revealed an appallingly decayed 3rd world city inside the USA which, to my mind, is but a fractional tip of a gigantic iceberg that are America’s decaying cities on the way to 3rd world infamy.

 

If, for instance, just about 55% of the top 700 cities of the USA will be so badly decayed by 2015 and be declared as 3rd world or ‘developing cities’, then we know more or less that America had catastrophically seen its worst state. With 97% of U.S. population living in cities (urban), likewise will the whole of the USA be declared as a ‘developing economy’ as early as 2015.

 

That is, again, if the destructive ‘virtual economy’ policies will not be taken down and reversed sweepingly. As I’ve declared in previous articles before (when Obama was still campaigning for the presidency), America must quickly return to a New Deal-type policy regime: interventionist, with great stress on revivifying infrastructures, revitalizing transport R&D (railways, shipping, etc), upscaling science & technology investments (including rockets), returning heavy industries (revive steel and many dead manufactures), and ensuring agricultural productivity.

 

Europe is not far behind such near-catastrophic downslide of the USA, just to remind our friends in Europe and the globe. Decisively institute interventionist policies in the continent, regulate the financial-banking sectors (criminalize predatory finance), and revivify social policy that were hallmarks of a once strong and mighty European economy.

 

And there’s no better time to act then now. Failure to act soon, by stubbornly instituting the palliatives (e.g. bailing out failing big banks, semi-regulating stock exchange), will be the best sure-fire formula to see a rapid thirdworldization of the West.

 

Before long, some messianic mad leaders in both continents would be drum-beating their being “stubbed behind the back” and generate new Hitlers and Bonapartes in their backyards. Act now, Western peoples, to avoid this eventuality from ever taking place at all.

 

[Philippines, 21 July 2010]

 

EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

January 15, 2016

EUROPE & AMERICA ON DOWNWARD SLIDE TO 3RD WORLD ECONOMIES

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Magandang gabi! Good evening!

 

It’s dusk time as I write, and this dusk at a time of intensifying monsoon rains seems to bode images of a grim future for the West at large. The European Union or EU members and the USA, the gigantic pillars of the global economy, are particularly in dire straits as they have entered the zone of flat growth and perpetual recession.

 

As already tackled by me in diverse articles, the East is surging forward bringing life to the global economy as a whole. In contrast, the West is spiraling downwards, and the strategies their stakeholders are putting into place to arrest the downslide are at best palliative. As the East continues to surge upward, the West continues to stagnate and decay.

 

After World War II, both Europe and America embarked on massive infrastructures and heated industrialization that saw both economies dominating the global economy’s wealth production. The result of that was an OECD producing 60% of Gross World Product or GWP for some decades (today that’s down to 40% of GWP and will still go down).

 

That was the situation back then. By the 1990s, the situation had been badly reversed as a result of liberal economic policies instituted in the previous decade (80s). The rise of a ‘virtual economy’ dominated by predatory finance was instrumental in the West’s massive de-industrialization, decay of relatively unattended infrastructures, decline in science & technology research, and neglect of the transport sector (only Japan & Germany were actively pursuing maglev railways).

 

By the early 1990s yet, certain experts among economists and sociologists in America began echoing alarming notes about the possible downslide of the USA into a 3rd world country should the economic decay, such as that of relatively unattended infrastructures, be allowed to continue till past 2010s.

 

In the late 1990s, my own circle of political economists in Manila (Sunday Kapihan/Independent Review) saw such a possibility ourselves as we consolidated the data made available to us thanks to the internet. By 1998 all fellows of our circle were convinced of the catastrophic direction that the USA and Europe were plunging themselves into, which could begin with a depression past 2005 and a thirdworldization by 2010s (both have been hit by recession this decade as a matter of fact).

 

When Katrina struck the USA and when those floods struck Europe just a few years back, and the same free market policies stubbornly remained in place, I knew the downslide would turn out to be irreversible. The fate of New Orleans, with its residents lining up for food akin to a depressed city, revealed an appallingly decayed 3rd world city inside the USA which, to my mind, is but a fractional tip of a gigantic iceberg that are America’s decaying cities on the way to 3rd world infamy.

 

If, for instance, just about 55% of the top 700 cities of the USA will be so badly decayed by 2015 and be declared as 3rd world or ‘developing cities’, then we know more or less that America had catastrophically seen its worst state. With 97% of U.S. population living in cities (urban), likewise will the whole of the USA be declared as a ‘developing economy’ as early as 2015.

 

That is, again, if the destructive ‘virtual economy’ policies will not be taken down and reversed sweepingly. As I’ve declared in previous articles before (when Obama was still campaigning for the presidency), America must quickly return to a New Deal-type policy regime: interventionist, with great stress on revivifying infrastructures, revitalizing transport R&D (railways, shipping, etc), upscaling science & technology investments (including rockets), returning heavy industries (revive steel and many dead manufactures), and ensuring agricultural productivity.

 

Europe is not far behind such near-catastrophic downslide of the USA, just to remind our friends in Europe and the globe. Decisively institute interventionist policies in the continent, regulate the financial-banking sectors (criminalize predatory finance), and revivify social policy that were hallmarks of a once strong and mighty European economy.

 

And there’s no better time to act then now. Failure to act soon, by stubbornly instituting the palliatives (e.g. bailing out failing big banks, semi-regulating stock exchange), will be the best sure-fire formula to see a rapid thirdworldization of the West.

 

Before long, some messianic mad leaders in both continents would be drum-beating their being “stubbed behind the back” and generate new Hitlers and Bonapartes in their backyards. Act now, Western peoples, to avoid this eventuality from ever taking place at all.

 

[Philippines, 21 July 2010]

 

GLOBALIZING CHRISTMAS

December 25, 2015

GLOBALIZING CHRISTMAS

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Christmas is now nearing as of this writing. Christmas bell tolls, kids’ carols, merry songs & dances are now up in the air, inviting everyone else to share the spirit of fun and camaraderie.

 

A Christian and sectarian holiday Christmas is, no one doubts this. Granted that Christmas is a sectarian affair, is it possible to transform it into a global/universal, multi-cultural event? There are apparently two (2) perspectives that clash concerning the matter.

 

From the point of view of fundamentalist, ultra-conservative church practitioners, whether Christian or non-Christian, Christmas is a sectarian affair and should not veer into cultural spaces not meant for its observation. A Muslim fundamentalist would throw monkey wrench at any attempt to globalize Christmas, and the same may be true for those fundamentalists of other denominations.

 

From the vantage point of a non-fundamentalist, cosmopolitan person, Christmas is one occasion that Christians can share to others. It is a multi-cultural affair, and it belongs to the whole of humanity for that matter. Ergo, everyone on Earth better attunes to the Christmas spirit and feel the ‘family of mankind’ fraternal bonds that the affair espouses.

 

As to where I stand in that polarity of perspectives, I am among those who wish to share the Christmas spirit as a multi-cultural blessing. Born a Catholic, but now a freethinker who espouses post-church spirituality, I remain attuned to the Christmas holidays just the same for the reasons stated above.

 

Christianity is a cult of Jesus, and I will have nothing to do with following or propagating such a cult. Esoteric Christianity, however, isn’t the same as the folk Christianity of the flocks who regard Jesus as a cult figure, and I squarely stand on the grounds of this mystical version of Christianity.

 

Esoteric Christianity teaches universal brotherhood among its core lessons. Universal brotherhood, a battle cry of cosmopolitan esotericists, is still a very valid principle to stand up for. It is the ethos that permits a soul to go beyond the bounds of sectarian precepts, embrace fellow humans as co-family members, and build a culture of dialogue across the planet.

 

I do hope that the more cosmopolitan Christians would consciously invite non-Christians to be part of the holidays, truly embrace their non-Christian brothers and sisters, and allow the latter to participate in such year-end party rituals as gift-giving. And, invite the non-Christians to 24th of December midnight gathering, where they can sit by the Christmas tree and partake of the food blessings for the occasion.

 

Non-Christians who may not be invited by Christians in their homes on the 24th & 25th of December can also go ahead and celebrate the affair with their families and friends on the said dates. Nothing is wrong for them to put up a Christmas tree at home and party on the 24th midnight and on the 25th of December. And, at the end of the month, celebrate New Year’s Eve too.

 

In the Philippines, the transformation of Christmas into a multi-cultural event has already been going on in the 60s till 1972. Unfortunately, the Mindanao War came, a Christian-Muslim schism was propagated, and Muslims became reluctant to celebrate Christmas with their brethrens among Christians.

 

I just hope that the tide of cleavages is now ebbing and ceasing. We formally recognize Muslim and Chinese occasions in this country, and so it would be fitting for all Filipinos including Chinese and Muslims to celebrate Christmas as well. By Chinese I refer to those Chinese who are Buddhist, Daoist, atheist, or non-Christian.

 

The occasions for Christmas parties are now going on, from one organization to another, and so it is best for us all to participate in these events. And, comes the 24th-25th of the month, celebrate Christmas at home as a ritual occasion to solidify family bonds. Then, comes the New Year’s Eve, celebrate with a Big Bang accompanying a party or gathering.

 

Peace be with you! Advanced Happy Holidays!

 

[Philippines, 08 December 2010]

 

 

 

ONE ASEAN: GET READY!

December 5, 2015

ONE ASEAN: GET READY!

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

Good evening! Magandang gabi!

 

The dark clouds of the electoral contests are now getting clearer in the Philippines. With our polls settled and our elected leaders about to begin their mandates, I’d now depart from election-related advocacies and move back to the international-global arenas.

 

I have written quite enormously about international political economy and subsidiary themes for over two (2) decades. Even my blogging has been consumed with peregrinations on the international arena. So let me go back to this arena, even as I now clarify that I am a strong advocate of One ASEAN.

 

As I’ve elucidated in my past writings (see 2007-08 articles), I perceive the ASEAN as the larger polity to which my own country will return in the future.

 

The Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, the whole of island Southeast particularly, were largely creations of Western powers. They used to be part of the Majapahit Empire, the world’s wealthiest region before Western colonization fragmented it.

 

Being a strong believer in ASEAN unity, I am willing to shed off my hard-line Filipino nationalism and don the cloak of pan-ASEAN patriotism. Majapahit was the original nation to me and to those who resonate with the same worldview, and eager am I to see my country return to the Empire.

 

The Empire no longer bears that name today. Rather, it goes by the name of ASEAN, short for Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But it bears the same geo-political and geo-economic contours of the Empire before it fragmented.

 

A benevolent Empire it was, as it used the fiat of trade cooperation to get membership into the polity. That is, to be able to become a part of the Empire, concur trade with its nexus and prinzeps. This was a much different track from the typical military occupation used by other regional and world powers to expand their territorial confines.

 

If we reflect back on what our state players are doing here today, where they’re concurring agreements and treaties using the most civil means conceivable to get to a higher level of unity, the same means actually revives the consensus methods used by our peoples in antiquity. Today, no matter how diverse our political, economic, and cultural systems are, we are talking to each other here, which is reflective of a ‘dialogues of civilizations’ approach.

 

From state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society talks, let us move on to direct people-to-people talks in the region. People-to-people interactions precede people-to-people cooperations. I strongly contend that people-to-people cooperation should eventually be the base for state-to-state and civil society-to-civil society cooperation and no less.

 

State-to-state talks are quite slow in results, even if market players joined state actors to buttress the former stakeholders’ positions. In some areas of talks, such as those involving territories, snags are observed.

 

People-to-people interactions and cooperation will do much to accelerate state-to-state talks that get snagged for one reason or another. The same cooperation can also accelerate the building of a pan-ASEAN identity which should precede any writing of a general treaty that will unify the region at least economically.

 

People-to-people interactions have already been taking place in the region for almost 2000 years in fact. Western colonization may have diminished the scales of interactions for a long while, but that era of imperialism is much behind us now.

 

As states, market players, and civil society players are preparing for larger talks ahead, let us noble peoples of the region go ahead and expand the levels of talks to build greater mutual confidence, appreciation of each other’s cultures, and trust. Along the way, we have fellow Asians and global citizens who will support our efforts as true friends.

 

In any way we can, let us get to know each other better. Let’s set aside utilitarian gains (e.g. get to know Asean pals who can become network marketing partners) and interact based on a true call of our hearts, of our souls.

 

That way, we contribute to building our preparedness for the grand future coming. We just can’t be caught flat-footed, not knowing what’s going on in our larger backyard because we allowed state players to monopolize the talks.

 

Fellow ASEANians, let’s get ready!

 

[Writ – Philippines, 11 May 2010. E. Argonza is adept at international political economy. He was a graduate student of former ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Wilfrido Villacorta, PhD. He has published various articles on the subject, as well as a book on global trade regime.]

ADAM SMITH’S CLASSICAL THEORY IS COPYCAT/UN-ORIGINAL

August 27, 2014

ADAM SMITH’S CLASSICAL THEORY IS COPYCAT/UN-ORIGINAL
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Magandang umaga! Good morning from Manila!

As one can see in the title, Adam Smith’s ideas about political economy were unoriginal or copycat. So I’m going to articulate some notes about the matter. This may come as a shocker to the devotees of Smith and fanatical ideologues of liberal or free market capitalism, but it had to be accepted. This is a matter of fact, not of speculation or libel.

This note is not intended to demean Smith nor to denigrate those whose actions are copycat, far from it. Doing copycat items is among the pathways to success, this lesson is greatly stressed most specially among marketing professionals. If one cannot succeed through innovative or original ideas and practices, then take the ‘copycat way’. Network marketing had already perfected the ‘copycat way’ in fact, by way of optimizing the principle of duplication (duplicate those presentation lines and themes before your niche customers or clients).

There are people who have this wrong notion that Smith invented liberal capitalism, and this has to be corrected. A simple knowledge of economic history will do. Having taught economic history at the Philippine’s premier university (U. Philippines) for some time, I know as a matter of fact that couples of influential writers emerged in the theoretic domain—who were focused on economic questions—before Smith appeared in the social landscape. Smith appeared when physiocracy, to which Smith properly belongs, was already making waves in France through the works of such gentlemen as Quesnay and Mirabeau.

But as one can see, Smith was a Scot, of the British Isle, and right in his own backyard there were couples of gentlemen too who wrote voluminously on the subject of political economy, from a vantage point that was already departing from the mercantilism of the previous couple of centuries. The departure concerned the sources of wealth, where the same thinkers opined that the ‘sphere of production’ had to be emphasized more than the ‘sphere of exchange’ which the mercantilists, notably Thomas Mun, discoursed on.

Some representative thinkers who preceded Smith were the following:

• Sir William Petty (1623-87): Considered the founder of political economy. A charter member of the Royal Society.

• John Locke, Sir Dudley North, David Hume, David Hume: Further propounded on basic principles of political economy. E.g. rent, trade, role of government.

• Richard Cantillon: His book Essai sur la nature du commerce en general (1755) was “the most systematic statement of economic principles” (E. Roll, A History of Economic Thought).

• Sir James Steuart: Wrote the voluminous Principles of Political Economy (1767), which was among the first textbooks in economics of that time.

• Honore Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau: Enlightenment thinker, involved with the French revolution, a political moderate who opined that modernizing France better follow the US model of industrialization path. He influenced many younger physiocrates.

• Francois Quesnay: Formally a fellow of the ‘economistes’ or ‘physiocrates’, was known for his popularization of the ‘tableau economique’ (economic table, title of his book), bringing political economy closer to empirical science.

• Jean C.M.V. de Gournay: Another eminent fellow of the ‘physiocrates’, who collaborated with Quesnay in advancing principles of political economy.

• Nicolas Baudeau : Wrote Introduction a la philosophie économique (1771).

• G. F. Le Trosne: wrote De l’ordre social (1777).

• André Morellet: “ best known by his controversy with Galiani on the freedom of the grain trade during the Flour War” (quoted from Wikipedia).

• Mercier Larivière and Dupont de Nemours: Also eminent members of the ‘physiocrates’.

Smith actually lived in Paris during his youthful heydays, where he stayed with the equally youthful Duke of Buccleuch circa 1764-1766. The Parisian exposure was Smith’s way of baptism into the illustrious physiocrats’ thought streams, and the rest was history.

So to my fellows in the professional world and this planet who continue to churn thoughts that Smith was the ‘originator of capitalism’, please rethink your opinions. Historical facts do not the least substantiate your thesis. Rather, what is right is that Smith brought political economy even closer to empirical science than ever, and his Wealth of Nations was a monumental effort during his time to construct a text book on the subject that was considerably a scientific material more than philosophy (ethics, metaphysics) though Smith still wrote philosophical treatises within the ambit of the methods of philosophy.

I need not belabor the point that Smith didn’t invent empiricism. Just by reflecting on the names above, one can see the names of giant figures in British empiricism (e.g Hume, Locke), who themselves took off from intellectual giants that preceded them (e.g. Francis Bacon).

So, please disabuse yourselves of Smith as ‘originator’ of anything. He never even boasted of originating anything at all. Rather, he systematized thought constructs that were already prevalent during his heyday. The purposes of his economic doctrines were already explained in some other articles writ by me.

[Philippines, 22 August 2008]

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY

August 18, 2014

TRADE & HUNGER: SALVING HUNGER VIA TRADE POLICY
Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me continue on the issue of hunger, which many politicians are raising howls this early in time for the 2010 polls. The tendency right now, with politicians’ short-sightedness and poverty of wisdom, is that hunger will be perpetuated and sustained even long after the same politicians are all dead.

In the study on fair trade & food security I did for the national center for fair trade and food security (KAISAMPALAD), I already raised the howl about hunger and recommended policy and institutional intervention.

Since other experts, notably nutritionists, already highlighted many factors to hunger and under-nutrition, such as lifestyle problems, economics, and lack of appropriate public policy, I preferred to highlight in that study the factor of trade on food insecurity and the hunger malaise. Let me cite some cases here to show how trade and hunger are directly related:

• Immediately after the termination of the sugar quota of the USA for Philippine-sourced sugar in the early 80s, the domestic sugar industry collapsed. 500,000 hungry sugar workers and their dependents had to line up for food, a tragedy and calamity that shamed the country before the international community. Till these days, the trauma caused by that ‘line up for porridge’ solution remains among those children of those days who are now adults, one of whom became my student at the University of the Philippines Manila campus (a girl).

• Two years ago, a cargo ship carrying PETRON oil to the Visayas got struck with leaks and a tragic spillage covering wide swaths of sea waters. The island province of Guimaras suffered catastrophically from that incident, its economy was as bad as a war-torn economy for one year. Its marginal fishers couldn’t fish for at least one year as the sea spillage had to cleaned up. The hunger and under-nutrition caused by that tragedy is indubitably related to a trade activity: oil being transported to a predefined destination.

• At the instance of trade liberalization on fruits upon the implementation of a series of GATT-related and IMF-World Bank sanctioned measures that began during the Cory Aquino regime, the massive entry of apples and fruit imports immediately crashed tens of thousands of producers of local mangoes, guavas and oranges, as domestic consumers (with their colonial flair for anything imported) chose to buy fruit imports in place of local ones. Economic dislocation and hunger instantly resulted from the trade liberalization policy.

The list could go on and on, as we go from one economic and/or population to another. What is clear here is that trade measures and activities do directly lead to food insecurity and the attendant problems of malnutrition and hunger. In the case of the Guimaras oil spillage calamity, humanitarian hands such as the Visayan provinces and Manila’s mayors’ offices, added to private and NGO groups, quickly moved to help the affected residents. Of course the PETRON itself took responsibility for the spillage, clean up, and offered humanitarian help as well. But did trade stakeholders ever paid for the hunger malaise suffered by the sugar workers and families, fruit small planters, and other families in the aftermath of shifting trade policy?

A strategic solution to trade-related hunger would be to constitute a Hunger Fund, whose funds shall come from at least 0.1% of all tariffs (on imports). A 0.1% tariff alone today translates to P800 million approximately, or close to $20 Million. This can serve as an insurance of sorts for trade-induced hunger. The funds will then be administered by an appropriate body, comprising of representatives from diverse sectors and headed by a nutritional scientist of international repute (e.g Dr. Florencio) rather than by a politician or ignoramus species.

Furthermore, insurance groups here can begin to innovate on food production-related insurance to cover force majeure damages. Cyclone insurance and earthquake insurance would be strong options for agricultural producers, even as other options can be designed most urgently.

I would admit that trade-related hunger and its solutions are practicable for the productive sectors of our population. There are 2.3 million street people today who comprise the relatively ‘unproductive sectors’, who all suffer from hunger. This need to be tackled as a distinct sector and problem, and discussed separately.

[Phiippines, 28 July 2008]
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