Tuesday, October 02, 2007


Rewrites of Jottings: ECONOMIC TWIST REDUX

Published Mindanao Post 25 February 1997


· Now we know what is one of the major causes of a 2-digit inflation rate – the rice farmer – if we are to believe some economic analysts. Note these series of pronouncements:
“The projected rice shortfall in the third quarter would be easily met by cheaper rice imports.” – senior agri official who asked not to be identified.
“Rice carries a weight of 10-15% in the consumer price index (CPI),” say analysts.
“Prospects of more rice supplies should temper any rise in inflation.” – vice president of a private securities firm.
“Ample rice stocks in the country at the start of the year will help keep inflation in single digits during the first six months of 1997,” officials and analysts say.
Conclusion: If our rice farmers fail to produce enough rice, rapid inflation is expected unless cheaper rice is imported before prices start to rise.
· Now we also know the culprits that keep sugar retail prices so high. According to Wilson Gamboa, Sugar Regulatory Administration head, “the sugar industry hid behind the shield of a domestic market forced to purchase expensive sugar”. How expensive? If tariffs on imported sugar are kept at 100% (which doubles the price), the sugar industry can still sing “happy days are here again”. But if the AFTA, the ASEAN trade association, pushes the application of the schedule bringing the tariff down to 52%, the sugar industry cannot compete!
Lately, the House Speaker endorsed the move to suspend the tariff cut to protect the 40,000 sugar farmers and producers. What was not said: the rest of the country won’t mind carrying the farmers on their backs for a decade or two more.
Still on sugar, “RP sugar exports surge, about 30,000 percent in November 1996 compared to the same month in 1995”. Yet a sugar shortage looms this year. Simply amazing!
Note on sugar: Mary Poppins’ memorable song line “…a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…” failed to add that it also relieves hiccups. Can sugar substitutes, the artificial sweeteners, do this?
· Not all news in the economic front are gloomy for the consumer. Farmers in the North plan to shift their crops from tobacco to corn, in protest to the new excise taxes imposed on cigarettes. The shift may help ease a corn shortage and high prices but will make the farmers miserable and still not curb the country’s craving for the addictive drug nicotine.


· “Schedules and rates are subject to change without prior notice.” Buyer beware. You have only yourself to blame if you meet disappointment when you patronize this sort of firm.
· If the product being advertised is so great, why then is it compared to the leading brand?
· Deregulation of the shipping industry spawned a slew of fast ferries plying the Visayas and Mindanao routes. These high-speed vessels capable of speeds up to 75 km/hr makes marine mishaps more likely. The conventional maritime “Rules of the Road” may no longer suffice to avert collisions within crowded inland waters, and this raises the possibility of higher mortality rates due to fire and severe injuries as well as drowning. A high-speed collision makes ships more likely to sink rapidly, thereby reducing chances of donning life vests.


· Those prone to seasickness (or motion sickness on land) may find relief from a common kitchen ingredient, ginger, in case they forget to buy either of the two non-prescription drugs (Bonamine or Dramamine) before embarking.
· Good news for all air travelers: Japan’s grant (aid) to upgrade facilities and improve training methods of the Civil aviation Training Center that trains Filipino air traffic controllers will help make our airspace safer for domestic and foreign flights.
· The list of those who value precision global time (GMT) is growing. Joining Xavier U. is CEPALCO. Individuals owning precision timepieces with a quartz movement can synchronize their time to the two.


· News item: “…some police officers at the COCPC are grumbling over the revamp. One who refused to be identified said most of the juicy portions were given to those (elite group) …” The key word is “juicy”. In economic parlance it means “rewarding and profitable financially”. If so, there are serious grounds for grumbling over turf. Was the expression blurted out or just pure choice?
· Built-in obsolescence: throwaway vehicles given gratis for police operations sans funds for their maintenance and gas.
· Never ending story: tale of busted traffic lights on one junction, after hiatus, fixed in the nick of time as the next junction’s light conks out, as if on one. If we do not have the means to keep simple items in running order, should we expect to keep the complex ones working reliably?
· Newly appointed Traffic Caesar (Czar) Ramon Tabor, city councilor par excellence, plans to compile a Traffic Code from a collection of pertinent Ordinances and Executive Orders. The compiled code will then be used to brief enforcers, and presumably, to re-educate errant drivers. It is hoped that the re-education would include, as a social obligation, the conventions of polite motoring.
· A proposal to obtain TMEB clearance as a pre-requisite of driver’s license renewal seems, at first, a clever method to identify habitual traffic offenders for eventual cancellation of license. On second thought, the idea loses luster because it adds an extra step to an already cumbersome process and provides an opportunity for “squeeze play”, the come-across-or-else game. This step punishes the vast majority for the sins of a few.


Yesterday the CHDF, today the CAFGU, tomorrow the CCW? Never heard of the last one? You’re not alone.
The CCW is a fledgling para-police organization called the Citizens Crime Watch that reportedly signed an agreement with the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to set up Koban-type police stations. They are granted authority as peace officers, and DILG will direct local government units down to barangay level, and police, to extend assistance. CCW members are given PhP100 (period unspecified), and may ask government and private entities to buy for them motorcycles, vehicles, and communications equipment.
Low pay, coercive authority” a combination that spawns extortion. Good intentions? These pave the road to that place where souls roast.


· Like a breath pf fresh, unpolluted air (which we used to have here in Baloy), I read about a group of young, zealous idealists (distinct from the Doctors to the Barrio ideologues) are still active in their mission to educate remote barangay residents on their duty and dignity as voters. This non-partisan group call themselves Simbahan Linkod ng Bayan. Social services at no cost to the taxpayer.
· From a consumer viewpoint, the main drawback of oil deregulation is the fact that an oil price hike urges a petition for a fare increase which, if granted, is irreversible, even when oil prices subside.

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