Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Understanding the Philippines' Medium Term Development (II)

It doesn't take a genius to know that our economy if properly stimulated and executed can do wonders. No joke--- all we have to do is look at our present data. Take aside our political woes, our economy has been on autopilot for years. We are all familiar with the the Philippine Government's budget issues—- problems in delivering and developing infrastructure.

Chapter 2 of the Medium Term Development Plan focuses on the development of the Agriculture Sector. As of 16 November 2005 year to date data from NEDA reveals that the agriculture sector performed 0.7%.

Reading the Medium Term Development Plan--- is really a down to earth framework. For example, it talks about providing greater access to farm to market roads, regional fish ports--- infrastructure to support business. Which is really an essential requirement in getting businesses to invest.

For example, there is potential in developing rice production in the Philippines. Travel to Central Luzon, and visit our farm lands and you will find the same age old practices are still in place. Imagine, driving to Dagupan City and find our roads with rice being dried on the road! Same, if you go Nueva Ecija and other places. Whereas our neighbors, Thailand for example is using technology to better their rice production not just in the seeds being used but throughout the production process.

One may argue that local governments have facilities to dry these rice for example. Or that we have paved roads that connect our farm lands to our market places. but when one looks at how rice changes hands in the country, we can see that it is the middleman and not the farmers earning money. Hence, the bottom of the food chain is disillusioned, is unable to execute properly.

About two decades ago, this country embarked on land reform. The purpose of which was to give lands to the farmers so that they could till it and make better lives for themselves. Sadly, our Land Reform program is a failure, not because landowners have found loop holes not to yield land to farmers--- but because our farmers have no skills to speak of to manage their business.

You can clearly see that the intent was a noble one. But the results have created a world that our food production has suffered in great measure. We are behind the times even in our own region. The reason is that our farmers are ill equipped not in terms of lacking seeds and such but in innovation, in a scientific approach, in creativity. We were not able to stimulate our agriculture industry.

Sadly, the irony is that the biggest company in the Philippines is in the food and beverage business--- which is another evidence to the fact that there is business to be made in agriculture. With an industry performing 0.7% GDP--- there is certainly room to grow and shows signs of potential. But we need to innovate and the only way is through private enterprise.

Government can provide all the infrastructure, certainly. That is a function of Government to facilitate and make available the infrastructure but it all comes down to innovating with every Filipino entrepreneur and business. And building a business on the agricultural side is certainly a step in the right direction.

With the advent of bird flu in countries producing a lot of chicken--- it opens a door for the country for example. With our mangoes being the sweetest and most good looking is certainly a potential that needs to be exploited and yet we are only doing a good 1 Million metric tons and about 80% of it is consumed by the domestic market. Our tuna industry is also another excellent example of an industry coming out of its own. And every business must aim to grow, to expand and find ways to innovate. It is through private endeavors, in hands that till both our seas and lands that we can grow.

There is nothing to be gained by being timid neither should we be procrastinating because of our political environment. Agribusiness is certainly one industry that has a huge potential, irregardless whether or not the Arroyo Administration executes its plan. Governments may rise and fall but the fact of the matter is that there is a huge potential, a huge hole that needs to be filled up and it is high time for those in the sidelines who care nothing for the woes and worries of the Oligarchy to step up, take initiative not by protesting in the streets but by investing in ourselves, in the Filipino.