Friday, 11 April 2008

Excerpts of Malacanang media interview with Kevin M. Cleaver

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008 | COMMENTARY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20566

Mr. Kevin Cleaver, Assistant President, Programme Management Department International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) United Nations

(Event: courtesy call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Reception Hall of the Malacañan Palace)

… WE ARE VERY TOPICAL RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THERE IS A WORLD FOOD CRISIS. IT IS HIT. AND IT IS REFLECTED RIGHT HERE IN MANILA BY HIGHER PRICES.

THIS IS HAPPENING ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND FOOD RIOTS IN MANY, MANY NATIONS. AND THE U.N. IS ESTIMATING THAT IN SOME 33 COUNTRIES, THERE IS CIVIL DISTURBANCE, FOOD RIOTS CAUSED BY FOOD SHORTAGES AND HIGHER PRICES. SO THIS IS ONE OF THE SUBJECTS WE DISCUSSED.

YOU DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF INSTABILITY IN THE PHILIPPINES BUT YOU HAVE PEOPLE SUFFERING BECAUSE THE PRICE OF RICE AND FOOD HAS INCREASED…

NOW WE DISCUSSED A LITTLE BIT WHAT TO DO ABOUT THAT. IN A NUTSHELL, IT IS TO PRODUCE MORE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

QUESTION:….
… WELL, TWO THINGS. ONE, IFAD FOCUSES ONLY ON THE POOREST REGIONS OF COUNTRIES, INCLUDING THE PHILIPPINES, SO WE DEAL WITH THE POOR, THE POOREST 20 PROVINCES. WE DEAL WITH AGRICULTURE AND OUR WHOLE FOCUS IS ON INVESTING IN RURAL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION.

SO WE CAN HELP AND WE WILL HELP. WE INTEND TO HELP. FOR EXAMPLE, WE ARE GOING TO FINANCE A US $ 66 MILLION AGRICULTURAL AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM COVERING THE ENTIRE CORDILLERA REGION WHICH IS A VERY POOR REGION. BUT IT IS AN AGRICULTURAL REGION. WE HAVE TWO PROJECTS IN MINDANAO. AGRICULTURAL PROJECTS, ALSO PRODUCING AGRICULTURAL…

NEXT YEAR, WE INTEND TO FINANCE PROJECT IN THE COASTAL REGION, WITH FISHERFOLK… FISH , NOT RICE BUT IT IS NUTRITIOUS… SO THE EFFICIENT PRODUCTION BY FILIPINOS OF FISH IS ALSO…

WE ALSO HAVE A NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PROJECT. WE WILL BE PREPARING WITH THE GOVERNMENT TO LOOK AT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE IS EROSION AND DEFORESTATION.
AND THAT HAS AN IMMEDIATELY NEGATIVE IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE…
BUT IT IS ALSO FILLING UP THE DAMS, WHICH IS PRODUCING THE AMOUNT OF WATER FOR YOUR IRRIGATED AREAS.

AND THAT MAYBE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO RICE PRODUCTION IS TO MAKE SURE THAT IRRIGATION IS FUNCTIONING. AND TO REHABILITATE IRRIGATED LANDS THAT HAVE BECOME DEBILITATED, TAKEN OUT OF PRODUCTION BECAUSE THE INFRASTRUCTURE HAS NOT BEEN MAINTAINED.

THE GOVERNMENT, THE PRESIDENT TOLD ME THAT THEY HAVE AN IMMEDIATE PROGRAM… WE ARE NOT FINANCING IT.. BUT THE PROGRAM IS THE REHABILITATION OF IRRIGATED, DEGRADED IRRIGATED FACILITIES . THIS WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN PROVIDING MORE RICE FOR THE NEXT YEAR.

IN THE MEANTIME, WE HAVE A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM. IT IS DIFFICULT TO CURE A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM WITH PRODUCTION THAT COMES A YEAR FROM NOW…

I FEEL FULLY CONFIDENT THAT IN THE IMMEDIATE TERM, THIS WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF BY THE GOVERNMENT.

BUT THE PHILIPPINES, LIKE EVERY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, HAS A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM. AND GOVERNMENTS ARE NOT MAGIC FAIRIES. THEY CAN’T JUST SWING A WAND AND MAKE THE RICE APPEAR.

CORDILLERA PROJECT:
INCLUDES A LOT OF RICE PRODUCTION. BUT THE CORDILLERA IS ALSO A BIG VEGETABLE PRODUCER. RAIN FED AND IRRIGATED. BUT THEY DO HAVE A LOT OF IRRIGATED RICE. AND WE ARE REHABILITATING IRRIGATED INFRASTRUCTURE, AND ROADS, AND MARKET FACILITIES. THAT REGION NEEDS EVERYTHING, ACTUALLY, MICRO-FINANCE.

IT IS NOT YET PRODUCING RICE DIRECTLY. WITH NO ROAD TO TRANSPORT IT, IT IS VERY DIFFICULT. NO TRAMLINES TO TAKE IT FROM THE VALLEYS TO THE ROADS. SO WE ARE FINANCING ALL OF THOSE THINGS.

Q: DID THE PRESIDENT GIVE YOU A BRIEFING ABOUT HOW WE ARE ADDRESSING THE RICE PROBLEM?
WE TALKED ABOUT THE MEDIUM AND LONGER-TERM, TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT WE THOUGHT…
AS WE INVEST IN AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, TYPICALLY INVESTMENTS DON’T HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT. IMMEDIATE, MEANING, TOMORROW, BECAUSE I READ IN THE PAPERS THAT IN THE PHILIPPINES, YOUR NEED IS AN IMMEDIATE THING. NEXT YEAR. OR EVEN IN SIX MONTHS.
THAT IS WHY I SAY AM VERY CONFIDENT THAT IN THE IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM, THIS PROBLEM COULD BE HANDLED PRETTY EASILY BY THE PHILIPPINES.

IN THE SHORT TERM, EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS STRUGGLING WITH THIS. I UNDERSTAND THAT THE PHILIPPINES HAS CREATED A COMMISSION TO LOOK INTO THE PROBLEM OF RICE PRICING, RICE POLICY…

IN THE LONG-TERM, I CAN TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE ALL THE POTENTIAL IN THE PHILIPPINES TO DO THIS. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE… AND IT WILL BE DONE…

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD THE PHILIPPINES DO…?
IN THE MEDIUM AND LONG-TERM, NEXT YEAR INVESTMENT IN IRRIGATION, REHABILITATION, INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE IN RURAL AREAS, INVESTMENT IN RURAL FINANCE, INVESTMENT IN INSTITUTION BUILDING,
BUILDING A LOCAL MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, FARMERS ORGANIZATIONS SO THAT THE FARMERS CAN DEAL WITH THESE PROBLEMS THEMSELVES. INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURAL PROCESSING AND MARKETING, INPUT SUPPLY.

THERE ARE WAYS OF DOING THIS. HANDLED BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR, IF WE FIND PRIVATE/COOPERATIVE SECTOR TO MANAGE IT, THE BETTER. BUT THE GOVERNMENT HAS A BIG ROLE IN PROMOTING INVESTMENT IN THESE AREAS.

THE GOVERNMENT’S POLICY IS VERY MUCH ON TRACK. AND PRETTY MUCH CONSISTENT WITH WHAT I’VE SAID.

WHAT HAPPENED IS THAT THE WORLD HAS BEEN TAKEN BY SURPRISE.. NOT JUST THE PHILIPPINES.
VERY FEW PEOPLE, WE IN THE IFAD, WE HAVE BEEN PREDICTING A PROBLEM AS MUCH AS TWO YEARS AGO…
BUT MOST OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN COMPLACENT.
THE FOOD APPEARS IN THE SUPERMARKET. PEOPLE WERE EATING IT.
SO NOBODY REALLY PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO AGRICULTURE.
AND ALL OVER THE WORLD, YOU SEE DEGRADED INFRASTRUCTURE.
FARMERS WERE BEING NEGLECTED.
THE POOREST PEOPLE IN MOST COUNTRIES ARE FARMERS.

Q: ARE WE WORSE?
YOU ARE NOT THE WORST OFF BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION.
SOME ARE REALLY IN DESPERATE CONDITION.

I DON’T KNOW ALL THE DETAILS. AND I AM NOT HERE TO DEFEND YOUR GOVERNMENT… BUT YOU HAVE A GOVERNMENT THAT IS CONCERNED. THE NEWSPAPERS THAT YOU PRODUCE EVERYDAY, THE GOVERNMENT IS TALKING ABOUT IT. IMAGINE A GOVERNMENT THAT IS NOT CONCERNED AT ALL..

SHE (PGMA) IS APPROPRIATELY CONCERNED. VERY CONCERNED ON A DAILY BASIS. BUT I THINK SHE (IT IS MY FIRST TIME TO MEET HER), SHE IS A VERY, VERY CONFIDENT PERSON. VERY MUCH IN CHARGE. KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO. AND WHAT SHE SAYS MAKES GOOD SENSE TO ME…

OUR CONVERSATION WAS WITH SOMEBODY (PGMA) WHO IS CONCERNED,
KNOWS WHAT SHE IS DOING AND SHE IS DOING ALL THE MEASURES THAT SHE CAN.

Q: FOOD RIOTS ALL OVER THE WORLD; DO YOU THINK THIS SCENARIO WILL HAPPEN IN THE PHILIPPINES?

IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT ONLY YESTERDAY.

I THINK THAT THESE MEASURES SHOULD DEAL… WITH THIS SITUATION… SUFFICIENTLY TO AVOID THAT…

FOOD RIOTS OCCUR WHEN PEOPLE ACTUALLY CAN’T GET… FOOD FOR THEIR FAMILIES. WHEN YOU GO TO BED HUNGRY, YOU START THINKING ABOUT RIOTING, WHICH IS NOT HAPPENING IN THE PHILIPPINES.
THE GOVERNMENT IS ENSURING THAT THERE’S FOOD SUPPLY…

THE PRICES WILL GO UP… AND PEOPLE WILL HAVE HARDSHIP… THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PRICES GO UP. THERE IS NOTHING THAT THIS GOVERNMENT CAN DO ABOUT IT. EVERYBODY IN THE ENTIRE PLANET IS SUFFERING FROM THIS. EVERYBODY. NOT JUST FILIPINOS.

BUT WHAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN DO IS TO UNDERTAKE MEASURES TO AVOID STARVATION…


Q: IFAD OVER-ALL FUNDING FOR THE PHILIPPINES:

IFAD HAS PUT US$ 126 MILLION DOLLARS INTO THE PHILIPPINES IN THE PAST. THIS MAIN CORDILLERA PROJECT WHICH COVERS SIX PROVINCES WILL BE US$66 MILLION.

AND PROBABLY DO IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS ANOTHER 60 MILLION U.S. DOLLARS FOR OTHER PROJECTS. AND SO YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ANOTHER US $120 MILLION…

BUT THERE ARE OTHER DONORS WHO ARE PARTNERS.

OPEC FUNDS. THEY CO-FINANCE PROJECTS.

THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK. WE ARE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE WORLD BANK. SO WE’RE JUST ONE AMONGST THE NUMBER…

WE BECOME POPULAR BECAUSE WE ARE AGRICULTURE… AGRICULTURE GREW IN THE SUPERMARKET AS FAR AS MANY PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED… NOW IT HAS BECOME VERY TOPICAL..


Q: DID IFAD FORESEE CRISIS?
THE IFAD PREDICTED ABOUT 16 MONTHS AGO… VERY, VERY RAPID FOOD PRICE INCREASES. I DIDN’T REALIZE THAT THERE WOULD BE THIS LEVEL OF A CRISIS. THERE WOULD BE PRICE INCREASES. AND YOU KNOW WHY?
SIMPLY DEMAND AND SUPPLY. DEMAND IS INCREASING. VERY, VERY RAPIDLY IN ASIA. INDIA AND CHINA. POPULATION INCREASED. INCOME INCREASES.
PEOPLE ARE EATING BETTER.

AND THE WHOLE WORLD IS NEGLECTING INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DEMAND IS INCREASING AND SUPPLY REMAINS RELATIVELY STAGNANT? WHAT HAPPENS? PRICES GO UP.

ELEMENTARY ECONOMICS. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING.
RIGHT? AGAIN IT IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.
YOU DON’T INVEST IN AGRICULTURE?
IF YOU DON’T INVEST IN MICROCHIPS, YOU THINK YOU ARE GONNA GET MICRO CHIPS?

AGRICULTURE… REQUIRES INVESTMENT…

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