Tabije: Rich but poor-A A +A
Sunday, July 1, 2012
RICH but poor? How can that be? Those two words are mutually exclusive, they can’t happen simultaneously, you’ll likely argue. Hang on as I explain.
My work as consultant in the fields of agriculture and rural development has brought me to a lot of provinces in the country. One thing that really makes me wince during those travels is the presence of vast areas of idle lands, with just the useless cogon grass growing there. These are lands that could yield riches for the owners and the country if they are cultivated or planted to crops or trees.
Therein lies the rich-but-poor situation of our country. We are rich in natural resources but one of the reasons we remain poor as a country is that we don't work hard at making our natural assets useful. I understand that many of those idle lands are owned by wealthy people who have other businesses; so they don't need their lands to earn for them. They can afford to let them be idle.
On the other hand, some of those lands are owned by ordinary people, financially speaking, but who are lazy or not motivated enough to develop their idle lands.
Let's analyze things. In the beginning, long long time ago, all lands were owned by the state. Slowly, when population in some places grew, the government declared them as alienable and disposable and allowed the occupants and claimants to apply for land titles.
The basic principle in the giving of land titles to private persons or entities is for those lands to be used by those persons or entities for productive purposes.
Now that we have so many of those titled lands being unproductive, I suggest that the government should find a way to "force" the owners to make them productive.
Here's my suggestion: all idle agricultural lands should have much higher annual real property taxes, as some form of penalty. With this, the landowners will be "forced" to plant crops and trees in their lands. Or if they don't, well at least, the government earns from their higher tax payments.
Think of the hundreds of thousands of hectares that could be made productive with this cost-free strategy.
Here's another rich-but-poor example, this time among rice farmers. The rice cropping cycle, from planting to harvesting, is around 3-4 months.
After the planting, there is a waiting time of about 2 months until the harvest time comes. During the planting days, the farmers are very busy and industrious? Waking up early in the morning to start work in the field. Same is true during harvest time.
But here's the irony: during the waiting time in between the planting and harvesting time, many of those same farmers take a long vacation from working. They just sit around the house or drink tuba daily with their neighbors and friends. In short, they have become lazy and unproductive, until the harvest time comes and they become busy and industrious again.
We have tens of millions of rice farmers in the country; a huge number of people who become unproductive for about 4 months a year. Try to imagine how much richer our country will be (and the farmers themselves) if they make themselves productive those waiting months: plant vegetables, do backyard chicken or hog raising, etc. We could probably be exporting big numbers of chickens, pigs, vegetables, etc.
It’s time for the government to address these issues. These are things that could potentially make our country rich without the need for huge capital outlays.
Engineer Tabije is an international development consultant whose clients include the WB, UN, EC, JICA and ADB. He is also the publisher of www.BestManagementArticles.com, an online management resource site. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 02, 2012.