Posted tagged ‘hunger’

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

January 14, 2014

FOOD WARS ARE COMING, PREPARE!

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Food wars are coming, prepare for the contingencies! This is now a visible possibility, so all those enthused development stakeholders and peace-builders better insert an extra agendum on their ‘key result areas’.

Given the so many sources of conflict that are natural resources related, the latest ones being the ‘water wars’, it is no longer a remote possibility that food wars will erupt in some ‘hot soup spots’ in the world. Such hot spots are not those ones the world knows today (e.g. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Korean Peninsula, Taiwan-China strait) that can be potential starting points for great wars. But somehow, the areas and the food wars coming can ‘cross-cut’ the issues involving conflicts in the hot spots we know.

The scenario would be as follows:

· A convergence of volatilities in the global market would, at one conjuncture, lead to simultaneous price increases in food, oil/energy, metals, utilities. Hoarding then takes place at alarmingly uncontrollable levels. Shockingly, the old ‘policy tools’ to control prices and hoarding won’t work.

· Massive urban riots and upheavals in the affected rural areas take place. New militia groups will rise almost overnight, challenging both national armies and established warlord and rebel groups where these are found.

· Noticing that their own food, energy, base metal stocks are near or pass the critical points, affected states will then turn blind eye to the militias. Tying up with underworld for arms and information, the militias would then conduct quick eco-scan of neighboring countries that are relatively porous for food ransack operations. Key areas would be mapped out as professionally as possible.

· Noticing their own relative porosity, the panic response of affected food supplier states would be to plug their borders as quickly as they can before hothead militias come. They may do panic last-level talks with the state leaders of neighboring countries, who in turn will simply claim that they do not control warlord/militia groups at all. They may send token protection groups at the border.

· Anticipating such moves, the militias, forming cross-country alliances, will mount a coordinated surprise attack. Invasive entries will be done from around 5-6 country origins, using both dawn and dusk attacks. Simultaneous attacks via air, sea, land, rivers & lakes will be mounted on all fronts.

· Effectively unable to prevent the coordinated invasion, the national army/police of the affected state will watch in horror as the rapid moving invaders coalesce with internal players (‘dog of wars’ supplied by local mafia or related groups) to open and ransack warehouses.

· The invaders will then retreat back to their base origins as quick as they’ve entered the porous state. Hot pursuit is simply nil, save for a few sporadic gunfights with retreating forces.

· The affected state will then demand for indemnification or equivalent payment from the militias’ respective states, none of which may come at all. Given the already burgeoning subsidies by states to shore up domestic supplies and prevent further civil unrest due to the crisis, the states will simply have no resource for indemnification. To print more money for indemnification would be to risk hyper-inflation on top of an already inflationary environment.

· With hardly any sincere face-saving moves by the militias’ states, the affected state may then be provoked into a ‘call to arms’ and do some punitive attacks on some quick neighbors. It can also unleash the firepower of rebel groups from the ransacking countries that are based in its territory, arm these groups and make them lead punitive attacks.

· Unless cooler heads prevail in the region, a regional conflagration could ensue, hence widening the latitudes of the conflict. The original ‘hot soup’ for the stomach then turns to a ‘hot caldron’ of total war. Multilateral efforts may fail for a time, as the conflicts happen in at least three (3) world regions.

Partners in development and peace, this scenario can no longer be ignored today. Let us all prepare for the eventuality. If it can be stopped by cutting off the bud before it blooms, whatever that may take, then let’s better do it as soon as we can. Time is now against us, I believe, as events are moving so fast they happen as soon as we forecast them, like the formation of the food cartels.

If there would still be time to constitute strategic studies teams that can eco-scan the planet and identify possible ‘hot soup spots’, this would be a welcome move. Failing to recognize the evolving contingency, let’s not get shocked at all when the paramilitary ‘dogs of war’ will be at the gates of the bereaved states. They deserve some ‘hot soup’ after all, we may surmise.

 

[Writ 04 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]

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CAN THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BE FED IN THE LONG RUN?

October 15, 2013

CAN THE WORLD’S PEOPLES BE FED IN THE LONG RUN?

 

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

 

“In the long run, we shall all be dead!” – John Maynard Keynes

 

Good day to you fellow global citizens!

 

By the year 2050, the world’s present human population will breach the 10 billion mark. That’s what the forecasts are saying so far, although it is always possible that assumptions done in the forecast may not work in the future.

 

At any rate, yielding a population figure that is based on zero population growth or ZPG is all wishful thinking. World population is now growing at 80 millions annually, and there is no indicating a reversal or decline of the number of babies born and survived annually (less the numbers of death).

 

There just aren’t enough land to treat as frontier lands anymore, sufficient to yield greater harvests. Human food production is still based largely on land cultivation, though hydroponics was already perfected in the late 1980s yet, which can considerably shift production stress away from land. So we will still be stuck up with land-based cultivation + land- based fish farming + land-based livestock production.

 

As studies show, the sub-Saharan (desert largely) has the potential for feeding an additional 4 billions of warm bodies. This is quite some good news so far, though it only is a palliative. Unless that population growth will taper down slowly across the coming decades, till it possibly gets nearer ZPG, the feeding problem will be a headache for humanity in the long run.

 

Below is a very interesting report about the feeding forecasts and problems anticipated in food production in the long run.

 

[Manila, 10 October 2013]

 

Source: http://www.scidev.net/global/farming/analysis-blog/focus-on-poverty-how-can-we-feed-ten-billion-people.html

Focus on Poverty: How can we feed ten billion people?

Speed read

  • Demand for food is set to outstrip supply and there is little spare land for crops
  • But Sub-Saharan Africa has great potential to increase production
  • As well as science, inequality and consumption patterns must be considered

It will be even harder to feed the world in 2050, but African farmers could be key, says Roger Williamson.
 
An alarming study has found that major crop yields are increasing too slowly to meet future food demands. With the latest UN projections suggesting a world population of 9.6 billion by 2050 [1] and the population rising by more than 80 million a year — with the fastest rates in some of the most populous African countries — how will the human race feed itself?
 
In future, will we be talking about three to four billion people in extreme poverty rather than the current ‘bottom billion’?
 
A recent, timely book, 10 Billion by Stephen Emmott [2], paints a bleak picture. Emmott examines technological fixes or changes in behaviour or political will as potential solutions, but says  these are likely to fail.
 
This conclusion must be taken seriously. A key part of his narrative is that there is simply not enough land to feed the growing population — more importantly, one with growing food needs. What’s left are cities, where you buy food (not grow it); oceans, which are largely being overfished; forests; and desert. Thus there are only two real possibilities: somehow finding more land to cultivate or improving yields from existing cropland.

A video posted online earlier this month by the ReCom programme — which aims to research and communicate what works in foreign aid — of the UN University-World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER), based in Finland, provides a more hopeful scenario for Africa.

In it, Ephraim Nkonya, a Tanzanian land management specialist at the International Food Policy Research Institute, makes the surprising statement that Africa could become the world’s breadbasket.

His argument hinges around two interlinked opportunities — that the yield gap for current and maximum potential production for crops is greatest in Sub-Saharan Africa, and that there is potential for radically expanding food production through increasing the area of land under production. According to Nkonya, 90 per cent of all land that could be brought under cultivation is in Africa or Latin America.

Akio Hosono, of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Research Institute, recently presented positive examples of the latter at a UNU-WIDER conference. He highlighted the use of Brazil’s vast Cerrado region for soya production. [3] JICA and the Brazilians are exploring this model’s applicability to Mozambique. [4]
 
However, increasing crop yields by expanding the area under cultivation often means deforestation. Intensification of yield is the key.

Forecasts of having three to four billion people living in absolute poverty, and strategies for eradicating this problem, are questions for science, but they are also more than that. Social and economic issues of extreme inequality (for example around access to land) and consumption patterns (for example ensuring that resources for food production are distributed equally) are also vital elements to the mix.

Roger Williamson is an independent consultant and visiting fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom. Previous positions include organising nearly 80 international policy conferences for the UK Foreign Office and being head of policy and campaigns at Christian Aid. 

References

[1] Worldwatch Institute Fertility Surprises Portend a More Populous Future (Worldwatch Institute, 10 July 2013)
[2] Emmott, S. 10 Billion (Penguin, 2013)
[3] Hosono, A. Industrial Strategy and Economic Transformation (ReCom, accessed 26 July 2013)
[4] Hosono, A. South-South/Triangular Cooperation and Capacity Development. In K. Hiroshi (ed) Scaling Up South-South and Triangular Cooperation (JICA Research Institute, November 2012)

LIBERAL COÑO POWER & RISING POVERTY

April 20, 2011

LIBERAL COÑO POWER & RISING POVERTY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Liberal Party is now up in power and neo-liberalism, the same ideology espoused since after the rise of FVRamos, continues to ravage natural, human, and physical resources to enlarge the pockets of billionaires and global oligarchs.

Neo-liberal policies of privatization, deregulation, liberalization comprise the trilogy of evils that have led to a great divide between haves and have-nots in the entire planet. So did the same policies unleash the greater elite powers to slam bang middle and lower classes who would have to satisfy themselves with bread crumbs.

As I’ve been saying in my articles, liberalism is just one step away from fascism. It is in fact a mask used by the same elites to conceal their plutocratic, top-down social control engagement done in the pursuit of their greed. It is a subterfuge for gangland power and warlord power in countries such as PH, the latter being the base of primal-sadistic power by elites in the North.

[Philippines, 17 April 2011]
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LIBERALISM: MORE POVERTY & CORRUPTION

Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza
University of the Philippines

Good afternoon, fellows!

The Liberal Party in the Philippines has been bandying lately the good governance agenda. Philosophically bankrupt, the dogmatists of the party could at best parrot the verbiage of university academics who, in reductionist fashion, associated the development problems of the country to bad governance.

Poverty had alarmingly risen from 25% in 2001 to 32% today, as per government statistics. This came at a time when the economy doubled, GDP-wise, and the country had been dubbed as an ‘emerging market’. Can poverty be factored solely to bad governance, as liberal quacks now claim?

Whether the so-called ‘think-tank’ of the Liberal Party or LP possesses the comprehensive grasp of the country’s problems is doubtful. A ‘think-tank’ that is theoretically bankrupt could at best be a coterie of mediocre dudes whose sense of originality in problem-solving engagements is nil.

There surely were episodes in our economic history when poverty expanded. We can concretely site the following periods: 1983-1996, when poverty incidence rose from 35% in ’83 (Marcos era) to 49% in ’89 (Cory Aquino era) to a 60% peak in ’95 (Ramos Era); and, after a period of radical drop, moved up again in 2001 through 2009, from 25% (‘01)to 28% (’04) to 32% (‘09).

The 32% poverty incidence may not even be accurate. As Prof. Cielito Habito (Ateneo University) sited in his newspaper column, the figure could be a high 35%. My own intuitive assessment is that the figure could be much higher at around 45%.

Those high-poverty episodes were actually periods when the country was under the IMF programs’ tutelage. They were times when liberal policy reforms were radically implemented in the country, to note: liberalization, privatization, deregulation, tax reforms, reduced budgets for social services, currency devaluation, wage freeze, and increased utility prices.

Not only did we witness the expansion of poverty during the same episodes, we also saw the rise of corruption. Weak regulatory frameworks at a time of rising total budgets redound to liberalizing graft as well, resulting to larger largesse for bureaucrats & legislators (returns from pork barrel allocations).

Let’s take the case of trade liberalization. As soon as tariff reforms were implemented in full during the Ramos Era, a whopping P300 Billion+ worth of import duties were wiped out, thus reducing revenues so drastically. With nil safety nets in implementation, the tariff reform saw millions of affected small planters, fishers, craftsmen, and farm workers experience large-scale income drops, thus instantly leading to larger poverty incidence.

As commitments to tariff reforms are now binding upon our state, based on signed treaties (ASEAN, WTO), regulatory frameworks for executing projects remain weak. This bad situation ensures the perpetuation of the take of bureaucrats on projects, from the past 10% ‘s.o.p.’ circa 1980s, to the gargantuan 40% today and higher rate tomorrow. E.g. a road project worth P1 Billion will be priced/budgeted at P1.4 Billion, with P400 Million allowance for the grafters (they call it ‘for the boys’).

Note that during the periods of extensive liberal reforms, Hacienda Luisita escaped agrarian reform’s surgical operations. Of course, the regulatory and executory frameworks of the agrarian reform law were so weak, so much that President Aquino’s family estate was accorded special treatment that it enjoys till these days.

Ipso facto, liberal reforms practically destroyed the already weak regulatory frame that we Filipinos have struggled so hard to build since the time of the 1st presidency yet (Aguinaldo, 1898-1900). Curbing poverty and graft, which indeed go together, requires draconian tactics of state interventionism or dirigism, not liberalism.

It is all too easy a kindergarten stuff to forecast that under a liberal regime, poverty will swell to higher incidence (beyond 40%). As budgets and projects increase, so will graft move up, probably eating as much as 60% of total appropriations at certain junctures.

The ‘walang korupsyon’ (no corruption) flaunted by the liberal quacks is nothing but empty propaganda. Bereft of creative approaches to diminishing corruption, the ‘walang korupsyon’ line merely re-echoes an age-old line of traditional politicians or trapos desperate to gain electoral victories by duping a gullible electorate.

‘Walang korupsyon’ isn’t even liberal nor populist a line, but hyper-conservative. Conservatism serves the interests of Big Business, Big Landlords, Big Church (biggest landlord in the Philippines), and foreign capital.

We are therefore not surprised that the leaders and groups representing Big Business, Big Landlords, Big Church (Jesuits, Opus Dei, bishops), and foreign capital have openly supported Noynoy Aquino & the Liberal Party.

The LP of the Philippines now appears more as a copycat of the fascistic Liberal Democratic Party of Japan. Don’t ever be surprised that both parties are good friends within the Liberal International league.

A liberal regime will most likely be saddled with enormous graft and poverty problems that, within a couple of years of its incumbency, patriotic soldiers and populist groups would alternately shake it down to rubbles. A veteran of civil society campaigns myself, I would most likely be marching the streets again to oppose moralist pretenders who are in fact greedy crocodiles.

Liberalism doesn’t represent the interest of the nation and people, and should be rejected in the coming polls and the next ones to come.

[Philippines, 13 April 2010. Prof. Erle Argonza is an economist, sociologist, and international consultant. He’s a member of the very prestigious Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration or EROPA.]
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!
Social Blogs:
IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com
UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:
COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

Poetry & Art Blogs:
ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

Mixed Blends Blogs:
@MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com
@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com
@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website:
PROF. ERLE FRAYNE ARGONZA: http://erleargonza.com

POVERTY: PH LINGERING ACHILLES HEEL

April 14, 2011

POVERTY: PH LINGERING ACHILLES HEEL

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me follow through on the hunger report by reflecting on poverty once more. Ph is an economic boom episode and its chief exec Noynoy Aquino has been in power for almost a year since installation. Yet hunger grows amidst relative abundance!

Government statistics has to be massaged anew so as to make it appear that poverty has been going down. The ‘doctorates of statistical massage’ should better do their jobs well, as the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations clearly show a hunger rate of 20%. It’s so self-evident that poverty breeds hunger, so the growing hunger means poverty is growing too, isn’t it? Commonsensical a stuff!

Below is an article on poverty that I wrote while the election period was still going on last year. Since last year, poverty hasn’t shrunk!

[Philippines, 08 April 2011]
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POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Poverty is the Achilles’ heel of the Philippine state, and will be so for at least two (2) more decades. Amid the appreciable growth the economy has sustained so far, with the national economy doubling in just eight (8) years during the incumbency of president Gloria Arroyo, poverty remains very high.

If we go by the yardsticks of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, the Philippines has been performing fairly well on wealth production as a whole, so much that the country graduated to a middle income status by the turn of the century. No more a poor economy by world standards, yet the country’s poverty increased from 28% in 2001 (when Arroyo took over the presidency) to 33% today (per latest government statistics).

Paradoxical, come to think of it, that while the economy has been growing and had moved to middle income status, more people have become poorer. Tough, very tough, is the task of mining for the ‘gini in the bottle’ that would reduce poverty considerably to a negligible 5% or less, a level that is easily manageable and where state and communities can simply decide to fully subsidize the remaining poor.

Whether the Philippines can meet the UN’s Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half in 2015 seems much clearer now to social forecasters: the dream is elusive and unattainable. Not even if the economy will double again from mid-2009 to 2015 which is a most likely development.

The Philippines’ poorest happens to be the rural populations, notably the fisherfolk sector where malnutrition runs the highest rate (2/3 of children/families). Rural population is now down to 34% or 1/3 of the population, while the urban peoples comprise 66% or 2/3. Urban to rural poverty ratio is 1:2.5, meaning that for every 1 poor person in the cities & towns, there’s an equivalent of 2.5 persons in the countrysides.

The message is clear to the next government (formed by the new president after the May polls this year) that the attack zone on poverty should be the rural population. Both antipoverty and anti-hunger programs should be initiated at very high levels in the countryside to be able to bring down total poverty by a large degree.

Failure to solve rural poverty in the long run redounds to perpetuating insurgency. Even if the present insurgent groups would concur peace pacts with the state, new insurgent groups will emerge again in the foreseeable future should the rural folks remain paupers.

Urbanization is now moving up, and with its growing eminence has come the rise of new cities. Citification has seen the incomes of communities treble by leaps and bounds, thus permitting the same communities to spend on infrastructures and social development.

Left to themselves, without massive migrations from rural folks, the cities can accumulate enormous income surpluses to solve unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition (both hunger and obesity). Philanthropic groups consequently rise from civil society and market players, and boost surplus production for solving poverty.

However, such is not the case even as the migration of the poor from the countryside to the cities continues in steady waves. So this brings us all back to the challenge of solving poverty right at the backyards where the poorest are most concentrated. This means that the food producers shouldn’t be left out in the development game, even as rural development should be brought to its next level.

Goal-wise, the realistic target is to reduce poverty from 33% in 2009 to 25% by 2015, or an average of 1.33% reduction per annum. Means-wise, an appreciable mix of good governance, right socio-economic policies, and strengthening of institutions would do a long way to bring down poverty altogether in the short run.

Urban population will grow to 70% around 2015, while rural population will go down further to 30%. With lower rural populations to manage by then, there is no more reason for government not to be able to do something to solve poverty. And we say government, because the increase in poverty largely came from governance-related factors such as poor absorptive capacity (to handle large budgets), inefficiency, graft, poor inter-governmental coordination, and low political will to pursue audacious solutions to daunting problems.

In 1989, this analyst wrote an article “Prospects of Poverty Alleviation in the 1990s,” a piece that I delivered as a symposium lecture at the University of the East (Prof. Randy David was also a speaker). At that time, poverty was a high of 49%, while urban to rural poverty was 1:2.1.

Since 1989, we have seen poverty reduced from 49% to its present level of 33% (a 5% increase since 2001 though), although rural poverty moved up paradoxically during the same period. Poverty reduction is not really impossible, as evidenced by the huge reduction across a 20-year period. Bringing it down further to 25% by 2015 is a doable target.

So let us see how the nation will fair under the next government of the republic (after May polls), when we see a new set of political leaders and cabinet members installed to power. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, my standpoint is that a nationalist coalition, such as what the present candidate Sen. Manny Villar, is most equipped with policy paradigm and tools to deal with the Achilles heel of pauperism, aside from the competence and visionary acumen of the noblesse senator.

By nationalist, I mean that of moving towards a regulated market and fair trade, with high propensity for ‘physical economy’ policies. We can no more return to the days of liberalization policies that saw the economy crash down in ’83-’85, stagnate for a time and grow again before hitting the next recession in ’97, and finally move up to middle income status only after a turtle pace struggle taking three (3) decades.

Liberalism and its propensity to be pro-Big Business and Big Landlord is a big no in our fight against poverty, whether in the Philippines and other nations of the globe. In my country, nationalism is the antidote paradigm and social technology watershed to reverse decades of liberal policies and solution to poverty. I’ve been echoing this theme since my teenage years yet, and remains steadily anchored on it.

[Philippines, 20 March 2010]
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Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!
Social Blogs:
IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com
UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:
COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

Poetry & Art Blogs:
ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

Mixed Blends Blogs:
@MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com
@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com
@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website:
PROF. ERLE FRAYNE ARGONZA: http://erleargonza.com

POVERTY: PH LINGERING ACHILLES HEEL

April 11, 2011

POVERTY: PH LINGERING ACHILLES HEEL

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Let me follow through on the hunger report by reflecting on poverty once more. Ph is an economic boom episode and its chief exec Noynoy Aquino has been in power for almost a year since installation. Yet hunger grows amidst relative abundance!

Government statistics has to be massaged anew so as to make it appear that poverty has been going down. The ‘doctorates of statistical massage’ should better do their jobs well, as the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations clearly show a hunger rate of 20%. It’s so self-evident that poverty breeds hunger, so the growing hunger means poverty is growing too, isn’t it? Commonsensical a stuff!

Below is an article on poverty that I wrote while the election period was still going on last year. Since last year, poverty hasn’t shrunk!

[Philippines, 08 April 2011]
#########################################

POVERTY: PHILIPPINES‘ ACHILLES HEEL

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Poverty is the Achilles’ heel of the Philippine state, and will be so for at least two (2) more decades. Amid the appreciable growth the economy has sustained so far, with the national economy doubling in just eight (8) years during the incumbency of president Gloria Arroyo, poverty remains very high.

If we go by the yardsticks of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the World Bank, the Philippines has been performing fairly well on wealth production as a whole, so much that the country graduated to a middle income status by the turn of the century. No more a poor economy by world standards, yet the country’s poverty increased from 28% in 2001 (when Arroyo took over the presidency) to 33% today (per latest government statistics).

Paradoxical, come to think of it, that while the economy has been growing and had moved to middle income status, more people have become poorer. Tough, very tough, is the task of mining for the ‘gini in the bottle’ that would reduce poverty considerably to a negligible 5% or less, a level that is easily manageable and where state and communities can simply decide to fully subsidize the remaining poor.

Whether the Philippines can meet the UN’s Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty by half in 2015 seems much clearer now to social forecasters: the dream is elusive and unattainable. Not even if the economy will double again from mid-2009 to 2015 which is a most likely development.

The Philippines’ poorest happens to be the rural populations, notably the fisherfolk sector where malnutrition runs the highest rate (2/3 of children/families). Rural population is now down to 34% or 1/3 of the population, while the urban peoples comprise 66% or 2/3. Urban to rural poverty ratio is 1:2.5, meaning that for every 1 poor person in the cities & towns, there’s an equivalent of 2.5 persons in the countrysides.

The message is clear to the next government (formed by the new president after the May polls this year) that the attack zone on poverty should be the rural population. Both antipoverty and anti-hunger programs should be initiated at very high levels in the countryside to be able to bring down total poverty by a large degree.

Failure to solve rural poverty in the long run redounds to perpetuating insurgency. Even if the present insurgent groups would concur peace pacts with the state, new insurgent groups will emerge again in the foreseeable future should the rural folks remain paupers.

Urbanization is now moving up, and with its growing eminence has come the rise of new cities. Citification has seen the incomes of communities treble by leaps and bounds, thus permitting the same communities to spend on infrastructures and social development.

Left to themselves, without massive migrations from rural folks, the cities can accumulate enormous income surpluses to solve unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition (both hunger and obesity). Philanthropic groups consequently rise from civil society and market players, and boost surplus production for solving poverty.

However, such is not the case even as the migration of the poor from the countryside to the cities continues in steady waves. So this brings us all back to the challenge of solving poverty right at the backyards where the poorest are most concentrated. This means that the food producers shouldn’t be left out in the development game, even as rural development should be brought to its next level.

Goal-wise, the realistic target is to reduce poverty from 33% in 2009 to 25% by 2015, or an average of 1.33% reduction per annum. Means-wise, an appreciable mix of good governance, right socio-economic policies, and strengthening of institutions would do a long way to bring down poverty altogether in the short run.

Urban population will grow to 70% around 2015, while rural population will go down further to 30%. With lower rural populations to manage by then, there is no more reason for government not to be able to do something to solve poverty. And we say government, because the increase in poverty largely came from governance-related factors such as poor absorptive capacity (to handle large budgets), inefficiency, graft, poor inter-governmental coordination, and low political will to pursue audacious solutions to daunting problems.

In 1989, this analyst wrote an article “Prospects of Poverty Alleviation in the 1990s,” a piece that I delivered as a symposium lecture at the University of the East (Prof. Randy David was also a speaker). At that time, poverty was a high of 49%, while urban to rural poverty was 1:2.1.

Since 1989, we have seen poverty reduced from 49% to its present level of 33% (a 5% increase since 2001 though), although rural poverty moved up paradoxically during the same period. Poverty reduction is not really impossible, as evidenced by the huge reduction across a 20-year period. Bringing it down further to 25% by 2015 is a doable target.

So let us see how the nation will fair under the next government of the republic (after May polls), when we see a new set of political leaders and cabinet members installed to power. As I’ve mentioned in earlier articles, my standpoint is that a nationalist coalition, such as what the present candidate Sen. Manny Villar, is most equipped with policy paradigm and tools to deal with the Achilles heel of pauperism, aside from the competence and visionary acumen of the noblesse senator.

By nationalist, I mean that of moving towards a regulated market and fair trade, with high propensity for ‘physical economy’ policies. We can no more return to the days of liberalization policies that saw the economy crash down in ’83-’85, stagnate for a time and grow again before hitting the next recession in ’97, and finally move up to middle income status only after a turtle pace struggle taking three (3) decades.

Liberalism and its propensity to be pro-Big Business and Big Landlord is a big no in our fight against poverty, whether in the Philippines and other nations of the globe. In my country, nationalism is the antidote paradigm and social technology watershed to reverse decades of liberal policies and solution to poverty. I’ve been echoing this theme since my teenage years yet, and remains steadily anchored on it.

[Philippines, 20 March 2010]
@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Come Visit E. Argonza’s blogs & website anytime!
Social Blogs:
IKONOKLAST: http://erleargonza.blogspot.com
UNLADTAU: https://unladtau.wordpress.com

Wisdom/Spiritual Blogs:
COSMICBUHAY: http://cosmicbuhay.blogspot.com
BRIGHTWORLD: http://erlefraynebrightworld.wordpress.com

Poetry & Art Blogs:
ARTBLOG: http://erleargonza.wordpress.com
ARGONZAPOEM: http://argonzapoem.blogspot.com

Mixed Blends Blogs:
@MULTIPLY: http://efdargon.multiply.com
@FRIENDSTER: http://erleargonza.blog.friendster.com
@SOULCAST: http://www.soulcast.com/efdargon

Website:
PROF. ERLE FRAYNE ARGONZA: http://erleargonza.com

HUNGRY FOLKS GROW AMIDST PLENTY

April 10, 2011

HUNGRY FOLKS GROW AMIDST PLENTY

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Social Weather Stations or SWS just recently conducted its regular national survey on hunger, with the alarming conclusion of growing poverty incidence. A 20% hunger rate was the bleak turn of the survey, which is indeed gruesome to the stomach given the economic boom years.

It seems that the only people benefiting from the economic boom are the likes of SMC’s Ang, PLDT’s Panganiban, Noynoy cronies and intellectual prostitutes, and the likes. It’s almost a year now since Noynoy Aquino was installed to the presidency, and so we may need to begin to assess whether His Excellency’s dispensation had fared well in alleviating poverty and in putting an end to insurgency that has been caused by hunger and poverty among all causes.

I am reflecting back on the agenda expectations I had during the campaign period, chief of which was the physical economy as crux of campaign. Do we have a physical economy frame that takes down hunger effectively, or do we have a hodge podge economy so badly integrated and managed by incompetent prostituted intellectuals?

[Philippines, 08 April 2011]

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PHYSICAL ECONOMY IN RP’S 2010 POLLS

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The debates by presidential candidates have been reverberating the media audiences in the country for couples of weeks now. The issues have ranged from those that are social policy-oriented (subsidies to poor, health, education, housing, jobs) to macro-economic policies (sustaining growth, accelerating development) and moral policies (corruption, reproductive health). Some articulations of foreign policy were also heard from the competing gentlemen.

Seemingly confusing in their broadness, somehow the various forums for the debates (not actual debates but simply presentation of each one’s opinion about policy questions) did give a semblance of information-based campaigns by enthused candidates. This is already quite a departure from previous polls when debates were sparse and superficial, and should be lauded by observers.

What this analyst, who is a public policy expert, wishes to see clearly in the debates is the economic issue of whether to highlight the physical economy policies versus the virtual economy in the management of jobs and wealth creation by the next government. I raised this same question in the last presidential poll in the USA that pitted Senators Obama and McCain in a neck-to-neck fight. I shared my own assessment then that Sen. Obama resonated nearest to a physical economy inclination and should be supported by USA’s voters.

To reminisce a bit, the national economies saw the radical ascent of Reaganomic policies of privatization, deregulation, liberalization, and reinforcing policies beginning in 1980. Such policies led to the rapid integration of nations into a global economy, liberalized the cross-border flow of financial and monetary assets, and eventually led to the predominance of the ‘virtual economy’ based on predatory finance.

In the mid-90s, the Philippines saw its investments structure alarmingly imbalanced, with 86% or 6/7 of total comprising of portfolio capital, and only 1/7 or barely 16% in real or physical economy investments inclusive of FDIs (direct foreign investments). As early as 1989, I already raised the alarm bells that excessive radical liberalization of the economy could jeopardize the financial sector in the short run and lead to an economic collapse that could be far worst than the 1984-86 Depression of the Marcos era.

When a situation comes that the virtual economy dominates over the physical economy (agriculture, industry, S & T, transport) and subordinates the latter, a bubble is created. A bubble economy is one that grows on the basis of speculations in stocks and predatory operations of financial derivatives (secondary debt papers traded in the global market), and is bound to collapse when a burst comes since it isn’t based on tangible goods.

Surely enough, when the bubble burst in Thailand in June 1996, the ‘butterfly effect’ of a mini-flapping of wings created a storm across a vast region. We then dubbed that crisis as the ‘Asian financial meltdown’. The economies and financial institutions that had the greatest exposure to portfolio finance suffered the most.

The worst was yet to come though, as the USA had to wait for 2007 before it would experience its own crash, a catastrophic crash that spread to Europe and Japan (twas barely out of a decade-long recession). The same bubble economy and its predictable burst led to the crash, a recession that hasn’t fully retreated yet. Europe is still in flames today (watch the financial flames in Greece, Spain, Finland), while Japan remains as flat as it was during its 10-year crisis (1994-2004).

The fact of the matter is that, in a virtual economy, the predatory financiers (bankers included) gain the most, while the people pay the price for the collapse. And the payment comes in the form of ‘stimulus package’ that are derived from tax revenues. So the equation is that financiers run away with the massive loot, and the people pay for the cost of the looting crime. The culprits then run away largely unpunished, while the people face the punitive flames of massive business closures, retrenchment, unemployment, and bad debts.

In my book Fair Trade & Food Security (Kaisampalad publication, 2005/07), I emphatically stressed that we have to reverse the free market and free trade policies to be able to regain economic wellness. Reversal means we have to go back to the principles of regulated economy (production, trade, distribution, consumption), and replace free trade with fair trade in our international trade.

Strong regulatory frameworks, coupled with strong institutions and good governance, will redound to bringing back the physical economy into place. With the economy based on the physical or real economy, this country and any country for that matter will weather any economic storm both local and global. There is ample funds to pay national debts, balance the budget, fund social programs, create jobs, and increase wages.

Among all presidential candidates, only that of Senator Manny Villar so far resonates the strongest in terms of echoing the physical economy. This resonance could be explained by the fact that the noblesse legislator immersed himself in housing & infrastructures for the longest time of his life as an entrepreneur, and only fractionally engaged in speculative engagements. Besides, he was witness to the maelstrom on the realty sector caused by the bubble burst of ’97, a burst that wasn’t of his own making as it was the maneuverings of George Soros & pals via currency attacks (monetary markets) that led to the meltdown.

I hope you would agree with me that the slogan for this year’s polls would be: “It’s the physical economy, stupid!”

[Philippines, 19 March 2010]
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RURAL DEVELOPMENT SHOULD BE TOP PRIORITY WORLDWIDE

August 26, 2010

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

Good evening from the Philippines’ highland suburbs!

For this note I will focus on the thesis that rural development should be pursued by developing countries. The world’s nations have pursued growth that has been badly skewed towards urbanization and commercialization since after World War II, a total effort that has seen many people become poor as a result. Most of the poor folks are in rural hinterlands and fisherfolks.

The Philippines is a classic case in point that has been direly affected by the badly skewed development in favor of urbanization, an endeavor that has been fostered at the expense of rural communities of farmers, fisherfolks, and Indigenous Peoples or IPs. Today, Philippine population is 66% urban and 34% rural, with 2% added to urban population every year.

As urbanization grows, rural poverty likewise grows in my beloved country. Rural to urban poverty ratio here is 2.5:1 and is still moving up. It was 2.1:1 in 1989, and the situation has been deteriorating ever since. 70% of the country’s poor families are rural, with only 30% as urban. Very clearly, between the two, it is rural development that must be pursued with vigor to reverse the poverty situation in the country as a whole.

To demonstrate what I mean by skewed development, consider the following information:

ü  MetroManila or simply Manila, the national capital region (NCR), produces 30% or nearly 1/3 of the nation’s wealth. Yet it supports merely 12% o3 1/8 of the nation’s population.

ü  As of end of 2009, Manila contributed a whopping US $65 Billion to the country’s $186 Billion GDP or gross domestic product. Using UNDP converter index, Manila’s GDP, multiplied by 4, registered an enviable $260 Billion-Purchasing Power Parity or PPP for 2009, rendering it as wealthy as the whole of Vietnam.

ü  Included among the world’s 35 most wealthy and powerful mega-cities—comprising the ‘global nexus’—Manila’s economy remains at 65% services and 35% industries, with nary a food base worth documenting. These economic sectors are the highest in value-added, ensuring high levels of income for all component cities and towns of the mega-city.

ü  Poverty in Manila has been reduced to a manageable 8%, rendering it on an even much better situation than the USA’s whose poverty incidence had climbed from 12% in 2002 to 15% today. Manila has all the resources it needs to solve its own poverty and development problems, which made it drastically reduce poverty since the 1990s.

ü  Therefore, Manila should no longer be subsidized by national government in terms of development projects, from roads to international airports (Los Angeles & US cities are building their own airports without federal or state government support). Yet, as records show, billions of dollars are still being poured by national government to bankroll gigantic projects here, such as lightrail systems, international airport expansion, and flood control.

ü  On top of those national government-initiated projects is Pagcor City, a world-class theme park-cum-gaming complex that is costing U.S. $25 Billion (with private participation). It will employ 250,000 and will house the world’s tallest tower. It is targeted for completion in 2014.

So, as you can see from the Philippine case, whereas the mega-city receives billions of dollars for new projects and urban renewal, the rural areas continue to wallow in appalling states of abject poverty. Lucky enough if a region outside Manila would be appropriated P1 Billion or U.S. $24 Million at any given year from the pork barrels of Congress.

Fisherfolks in my country are particularly the most vulnerable to poverty and deleterious living conditions spawned by it. With poverty incidence at 66%, you could easily see why past 40% of fisherfolks’ children suffer from advanced malnutrition. The situation of over-fishing in the entire country compounds the poverty situation of marginal fisherfolks who can ill afford to equip themselves with state-of-the art fishing gears to compete with commercial fishers.

To say that the Philippines is in a transition phase, and that poverty and malnutrition will disappear it time as the country reaches development ‘maturity’, is pure delusion. Without active intervention to improve the capacities and capabilities of fisherfolks, farmers, and IPs, the problem of poverty will never fade away but will, as a matter of fact, worsen with time.

With so many rural folks wallowing in cesspools of pauperization, we can at best watch more rural insurgencies feast upon the resentment-filled minds of the rural poor. As the Philippine case has shown, past rural insurgencies have ceased only to be replaced by new, bigger, and more ferocious insurgencies.

[Philippines, 11 August 2010]

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