Carvajal: The myth of productivity

·3 min read

With poverty stalking the Filipino masses, nothing can be more urgent as a national priority than to ensure that the nation is food-secure. Thus, the incoming administration’s reported focus on higher agricultural productivity cannot be gainsaid.

Yet, there’s more than meets the impressionable eye here. The underlying assumption is not valid that people are poor and hungry because the country does not produce enough of life’s basics. As has been our story, producing more goods does not solve the poverty and hunger of millions of Filipinos.

The problem is not production but lack of access, on the part of many, to the country’s products. No matter how little we produce, if we had an equitable system of sharing, no Filipino should go hungry. On the other hand, no matter how much more is produced, if the distribution is skewed, as it is now, in favor of a few, many Filipinos will always be poor and hungry.

I can already see the new administration priding itself of glowing agricultural productivity figures on the macroeconomic level. Current productivity is so low it should not take much to bring it up a notch or two higher.

But will people on the ground be less poor and hungry? Not hardly. Because of our distribution system, the few who are benefitting from it will simply have the same easy and exclusive access to more food while the rest of the country will continue to struggle to get their fair share.

Water gives us a perfect analogy. If many below are not getting enough water because only a few people on top have pipes that tap into the water source, then additional water will simply mean more water to the few who have access to it. The distribution system must be improved to ensure that people below have equal access to the additional water produced.

Or take a banquet. There’s plenty of food for the 100 people invited. But why are so many unable to eat of the food served? Simple, there is no system and the few smart and greedy ones who get to the food first take more than they need.

Our problem with food is analogous to our problem with freedom. We have laws guaranteeing freedom to all citizens. But how many of us are free to buy the food our family needs? How many of us have the freedom to vote for the candidate we want?

Not many because it is not enough that we have laws guaranteeing freedom. One must first guarantee the essentials for accessing freedom which are education and economic stability. Without education and without economic stability, an individual’s freedom is significantly curtailed.

This country’s millions of uneducated, economically un-empowered citizens will continue to be hungry for food, jobs, education, and health for as long as we do not have a system of equal and effective access for all to these social benefits.

Productivity is a myth. Inequitable distribution is the painful reality.

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