Monday, April 14, 2008

Food riots and a political delusion

The hungry like the drunk are unreasonable. The global rice crisis has claimed its first political victim. The PM of Haiti just resigned over food riots in Port-au-Prince. The Haitian mob also murdered the Nigerian police officer who was driving a UN vehicle. This is a portent of things to come if things get worse. The Philippines is no exception.

Here in the Philippines politicians are in self delusion. Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra says that a food riot is an "alien concept". If being hungry is an alien concept then I would agree,but hunger isn't alien. It is endemic.

The politicians and government spin doctors keep on playing the Gloriana mantra that our "macroeconomic fundamentals are good". Philippine Star op ed columnist Cito Beltran today writes that in a crisis you can't eat money. This is only partly true. Of course you can eat money! You have to be 1) a termite or have 2) wood cellulose digesting bacteria in your gut (in that case then you really must be a termite!). OK I concede that termites would probably survive the global food crisis but not even them and their Queen can eat macroeconomic fundamentals!

So I do rehash King Juan Carlos I famous ¿Por quĂ© no te callas? at the government spin doctor that said the ear grating macroeconomic fundamentals mantra!

In a crisis the resource use principle becomes really applicable. It isn't the lack of a resource that is the problem but the availability. There could be no rice supply problem but it is not available to those who don't have cash.

Economic and political analysts have said that our current problems lies with Queen Gloriana's neoliberal decision to forego food sufficiency but concentrate on cheaper imports. Gloriana understandably wanted to reduce the budget deficit but our Her Majesty the PhD like every economist did not factor the fact that land and water are limiting agriculture. One way to postpone the K is to subsidize farming. This is something that Japan, the US and the EU still do. Farming glues their industrialized society by ensuring food security.

Gloriana has taken important steps by ensuring that there is no hoarding and delivery of the staple is unhampered. But the subsidy for NFA rice isn't sustainable. The government may have to issue ration cards.

Perhaps the Marie Antoinettesque comment comes from Gloriana's man on the speaker's chair, Speaker Nogi. He called "for big profitable corporations to go into corporate farming so they could feed their own employees."

The government is the biggest and most profitable employer. With these delusional comments from politicians, perhaps Nograles should send all congressmen to a labour re-education camp.

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