Competitive industry-A A +A
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
OF COURSE, a boycott is a vote of confidence, or the lack of it, over a political exercise or a product.
Off the bat, I have been largely boycotting soda pops these past years. I drink the beverage once every three weeks or more. But I don’t vote for Coca Cola by buying Coke products from my pocket.
For health reasons, I avoid softdrinks because I know they contain high fructose corn syrup or refined white sugar. I go for brown or muscovado sugar, or stevia, if I can find it to sweeten my cup of java.
However, I find this Coke-Free Negros quite hypocritical. Its activists bellyache to the government how Coke is depriving the sugar industry of its market and depriving small (and big) sugarcane farmers of their livelihoods.
To be sure, when the activists came out for that press conference launching their campaign, I was surprised to find some friends among its leaders. So I hope they don’t take it personal if I express my disagreement with them in public. I also have sugar planter friends. I’m sure we’ll be debating for some time to come.
First off, these activists are complaining how Negrenses are hard-up or adversely affected by Coca-Cola’s pre-mixes and HFCS. They paint a dim picture of the coming tiempo muerto.
But how many of them complained of the number of local entrepreneurs whose businesses collapsed when the mall giants and fast food outlets entered the local scene? In fact, many Negrenses applauded their entry, hailing their entry as proof of investor confidence in the local economy.
When Servando’s department store finally closed shop, did anyone outside of the owner and its sales force shed a tear? Or did anyone raise a howl of protests when many food outlets in Centroplex’s food gallery closed down, with no new businesses to replace them?
Of course, Negrenses lost their businesses, jobs, livelihoods. Almost all video rental establishments closed down when it failed to compete with sales of pirated DVDs. But their demise was largely ignored.
Everyone realized that’s business, that’s the marketplace. That’s competition. You either have to learn to swim by making your business efficient or get swept away by the opposing tide from the competition. That’s Business 101.
Lest I be misunderstood, I’m no neoliberal. I disagree with the neoliberal proposition that the less a government plays a role in the economy, the better it would be for economic growth. There are simply public goods such as clean air or forest conservation that are too important to leave to the tender mercies of market forces alone.
But the sugar industry has been around for too long. It should have grown up, make its production competitive, much like what the Thais did with their own sugar industry. The sugar industry cannot rely forever on captured markets and government support. It will have to learn to stand on its own.
For the industry to thrive in open market situations, it has to let inefficient producers go the way of the dinosaur and the dodo. Going bankrupt is not tantamount to committing seppuku. There’s life after bankruptcy.
If entrepreneurs fail to hack it with the competition, then do what investors who foundered did—pick themselves from the dust and start anew.
Build a new business. Go for another job. That’s what the Wall Street execs did when they suddenly found themselves out of jobs during the2009 Wall Street meltdown. My college buddy went down with her Thai restaurant in SM Megamall. She now teaches European executives English online. There’s life after a failed business.
I totally support what Gov. Alfredo Marañon said that it is the responsibility of planters and millers to attend to the needs of their workers. Getting competitive is what the Philippine sugar industry should get prepared for in 2015 when the tariff on imported sugar is lifted.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 29, 2011.