There are two very important issues that Mr. Aquino deliberately missed in his talks with President Francois Hollande: support for small-scale agriculture and the social safety net programs for the vulnerable. The “why” is easy to explain. The two are at the core of France’s reason for being. Here, they are non-issues, more so to the incumbent president .
France, a country with an economy that exports modern jets and a social fabric that feeds the world with the ideas of its public intellectuals, is a country like no other in the pampering of its small farmers and its small landholdings. If there is anything that is constant in the life of France, it is its love for the tillers of the soil. There is even a special French coinage for that love. Remember Jose Bove, the small farmer who almost single-handedly stopped the operations of a US fast-food giant in France. Small farmers, some 3% of the working population, get generous support domestically and get half of their support from European Union subsidies.
They get support when investing in new farming technologies. They get support just to train and develop a newgeneration of small farmers. They get full support from government to enable them to retain their small farms. Its agricultural heritage of small landholdings is something deeply ingrained and supported in French society .
No ambitious politician in France neglects its small farmers.
France and Sweden have the most generous social safety nets in the world for their down-on-their luck and their vulnerable.
The French people are covered by a generous health care program. Critical family expenses, from higher education to child care, are supported by the state . Salaried employees can take five weeks of paid vacation. Unemployment benefits are as generous.
It is a cradle-to-grave program that undergirds France’s policies toward its vulnerable and the down-on-their-luck citizens .
Mr. Aquino’s support for small farmers is zero, a berayal of what his forefathers did to the small farmers who tilled the original Aquino landholding in Murcia and Concepcion. In an act that predated noblesse oblige in the Philippines , the great grandfather of the President distributed his vast rice farms to his tenants, at a time when the idea of land reform was not even at its seminal stage.
This present-generation Aquino has been more than four years in office and I don’t think that he has heard the voice of a single rice farmer, 99 percent of whom hold on to their small plots of land because committing suicide, or turning to a life of crime, are the only alternatives left.
While he thrives in attending the milestone events of the plutocracy, Mr. Aquino has no time for small farmers, except for some insincere meetings at the Palace. Mr. Hollande should have regaled Mr. Aquino about how many farm and state fairs had he attended on the way to the presidency of France. And how he had reveled in those events with the land tillers of France.
To say that the small Filipino farmer lives in Aquino’s grimmer version of the Slough of Despond is an understatement. It could be worse.
Usurers mostly end up getting the CLOAs of land reform beneficiaries as there is no support after the land redistribution. The agri-business giants can borrow at better terms than the struggling farmers (we are one of the few agricultural countries with such skewed borrowing terms.)
On social safety nets and support for the vulnerable, one figure tells it all. Mr. Aquino’s cash transfer program for 2015 has a budget of P65 billion. The national budget is P2.6 trillion. That negligible amount is partly wasted by the lack of administrative competence to make the most of the cash transfer fund.
Mr. Aquino once said that he cannot sign a token draft law called Magna Carta for the Poor because it would bust the national budget. That draft law did not propose anything of that sort. Its budgetary requirements were even underwhelming.
It is fair to ask this. Are Mr. Aquino’s policies out of sync only with French policies?
After looking at France ‘s programs, allot a few minutes and read the synopsis of the USA’s 2015 Economic Report of the President, which defines the economic priorities of the Obama administration for the current year. Two issues dominate the 414-page Report: rising income inequality and stagnant wages.
Find out the reason why Janet Yellen, chair of the US Federal Reserve, and said to be the most powerful public official in the world, has been reluctant to end the Fed’s monetary easing. The reason – the slack in unemployment.
Google the pronouncement of Pope Francis and you will see that his appeal for the world to end economic inequality dominates, more than his concern for the usual papal topics of abortion rights, gay rights and celibacy for priests.
In the Eurozone area, the notion of fiscal rectitude and fidelity to debt repayment is now facing a serious challenge – a departure from the usual rule that beggar nations (let us tone that down to creditor-nations) should kneel before the altar of the creditor-institutions .
A new breed of global leaders is not at all interested in sucking up to the Davos crowd , or courting the favors of the global movers and shakers, for a possible stint in the multilateral institutions after their terms of office.
Leaders, either with real and powerful mandates (Obama / Yellen) or those with powerful pulpits (Pope Francis) have been pushing for policies that are not of the free market, fiscal health and rectitude, GDP growth variety. GDP growth per se as the main reason for being of leaders is moving into obsolescence, like the Washington Consensuses that was the rage in many emerging economies in the 80s.
As the old policy moorings and uncaring orthodoxy are being swept away , you can only look at the policies of Mr. Aquino and weep.