IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times — and so the classic line goes, a very apt description of what situation we Filipinos are in right now.
It’s been a while since the Philippines emerged victorious over a long period of economic drought. By the last quarter of 2006, our economy started posting signs of macroeconomic improvement and hope. It has done so up to now, amid the political turmoil hounding the same administration that claims to have salvaged our peso, stocks, investments and gross domestic product (GDP).
In fact, the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast on the country’s inflation rate for this year is well within the government’s target, at 4.4 percent.
Now we know that poverty can weaken a robust economy. To illustrate, based on a recent Asian Development Bank report, a high incidence of poverty remains seen in the country, thanks to rampant corruption and poor revenue collections. Even the government’s National Statistical Coordination Board claims that more Filipinos continue to live below poverty line — from 30 out of 100 Filipinos in 2000, to 33 out of 100 in 2006.
With the continuous rising prices of oil and, recently, the depleting supply of rice around the world — our staple food — our economy is bound to face big hurdles and we are to compelled to brave threats to our subsistence. This time, we can’t expect the numbers to be on our side again.
Malacañang has dispelled speculations that the country will experience rice shortage. But this is only because of requested supplies from the East Asia Emergency Rice Reserve, a stockpile sourced from Southeast Asian countries as well as from China, Japan and South Korea. No exporting country however would risk providing more share to other countries in the middle of a global crisis. What does this leave us then?
Today, we are actually having difficulty sourcing enough rice to meet this year’s import target of up to 1.8 million tons. The Philippines may house the reputable International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), it may be home to vast farming lands, but sadly it has also become one of the world’s biggest importers of rice. We should have learned from Vietnam’s hard work and diligence. What used to be a consistent importer of rice from the Philippines is now one of our providers. And right now, it’s nearly closing its doors on us in order to prioritize the needs of its citizens. (AJ)