Indonesia Anonymus

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ignore the Experts

A country once had a terrible famine. 5 out of 13 million of its people needed food aid. It practically had to beg to the world for help.
Then the new elected president, thinking enough is enough, said: "As long as I'm president, I don't want to be going to other capitals begging for food".
Now, not only the country can feed itself, it also feeds its hungry neighboring countries.
Name of the country? Malawi. And how did it manage to achieve this? By ignoring the experts !

"Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies. In the 1980s and again in the 1990s, The World Bank pushed Malawi to eliminate fertilizer subsidy entirely" [1].

Bear in mind that the US and Europe are known to greatly subsidize their farmers. The developed world funnels nearly $1 billion a day in subsidies to its farmers. A typical cow in the European Union receives a government subsidy of $2.20 a day [2].
Yes, folks: A cow in France makes more than a poor farmer in Indonesia !

That means:
The World Bank advised Malawi to do things that the rich countries are NOT doing.

The result: the price of fertilizer went sky high. The farmers could not afford it.
"Desperate to feed their families, they could not afford to let their land lie fallow or to fertilize it. Over time, their depleted plots yielded less food and the farmers fell deeper into poverty."

"In a withering evaluation of the World Bank's record on African agriculture, the bank's own internal watchdog concluded in October not only that the removal of subsidies had led to exorbitant fertilizer prices in African countries, but that the bank itself had often failed to recognize that improving Africa's declining soil quality was essential to lifting food production."

And so, "Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi's newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached." [1]

He then subsidizes fertilizer heavily.

The result:
"deep fertilizer subsidies and lesser ones for seed, abetted by good rains, helped farmers produce record-breaking corn harvests in 2006 and 2007, according to government crop estimates. Corn production leapt to 2.7 billion metric tons in 2006 and 3.4 billion in 2007 from 1.2 billion in 2005, the government reported." [1]

There you go.
So, Indonesia. Is there a lesson to be learned here?

[1] - Ending famine, simply by ignoring the experts
[2] - Cow Politics


Anonymous Anonymous said...

all expert(itis) should read this posting...


8:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just ignore everything from the experts. Then maybe we deteriorate.

8:08 AM  
Blogger said...

hi there :)
you got a nice blog with interesting writings
may i link to your blog?

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This new president has guts. And he is right. And he deserves to be an example others will follow.

I saw this movie called "Bamako" after Mali's capital. It is by a renowned director Abderrama Sissako. It is beautiful as well as militant.

Maybe these two unrelated facts indicate a revival of Africa. Another courageous, independent and critical voice can be found here:

1:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" follow what the West practiced, not what it preached." is a good phrase, even though not all of them need to be followed, I believe.

Can the "experts" the institutions can still be considered as experts when their formulas have brought countries they "helped" into more troubles and poverties?
The answer is no to those poor countreis, but yes their biggest shareholders. It's a matter of where you stand.

6:53 AM  
Blogger Arya Gaduh said...

Here is a caveat from Maggie McMillan of Tufts University:
"The World Bank has given out lots of loans to African governments for fertilizer and it has good reason to be cautious. For example, in an effort to stave off famine and reduce Ethiopia’s dependence on food aid, in 1995 the World Bank gave two loans to the government of Ethiopia totaling $164 million to support fertilizer use. Fertilizer use increased quite a bit, and with good rains in 2000/2001 there was a record harvest and maize prices plummeted. I was there that year and the sad joke was that farmers had come all the way to Addis to beg on the streets for money to repay their fertilizer loans. Inputs can be productive without being profitable. In Ethiopia the government tried to force farmers to repay their loans, causing enormous hardship."

She concludes:
"More fertilizer use is clearly an important part of poverty-alleviation success stories around the world, driven by the spread of improved seed and favorable market conditions. Subsidized fertilizer can raise output only temporarily. So there is certainly scope for increased fertilizer use in Africa, but it is not the magic bullet that the NYT headline would have us believe."

The moral of the story does not seem to be as black-and-white -- with clear bad and good guys -- as some would like to believe.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am a diehard fan of your blog. how can i link to you?

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many lessons are obviously clear here. one thing must be underlined is that western countries purposely want the third world countries to be far-less competitive, this is for sure to keep them market leaders in world economy.
The question is, what have we done to them and make them so heartless (brainless is very wrong remark in this case) ?

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Using taxpayer money (MY money) to be given to only certain people/sector is considered as unfair practice (why only xxx sector? MY service/product is also under attack from foreign competition, hence gov. should subsidize mine too...).

Sadly, the writer wants me to believe that a mere redistribution of wealth will fix all economical problems.

Subsidizing fertilizer will make fertilizer looks cheap in here (while actually it IS expensive). Result? More people will buy more fertilizer (because it's looks cheap), this of course will drive the fertilizer's actual price even HIGHER, so MORE taxpayer money will be needed to keep the price low. Hahahaha...nice logic, pal.

If fertilizer can be sold at ridiculous price, let's start producing it AND sell'em!

Let those developed nation subsidized food using THEIR taxpayer money so WE can enjoy those cow at LOW price!

12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think i had left a comment to this post, why it didnt appear eh?

10:01 PM  
Blogger admin said...

...intriguing thoughts:) your articles should be widely spread to those who consider themselves as 'expertise' in making Indonesia as a better place to live;)
Let's do something - a real action - that can help our families to overcome famine + poverty and lack of education. Better late than never. And, though small and simple, yet consistent and persistent, I believe will make something difference and meaningful for all of us here.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

saya lihat sekilas blog Anda, isinya cukup OK, pertanyaan saya: apakah Anda orang Indonesia, mengapa tidak menggunakan bahasa Indonesia ? (terus terang saja bhs Inggris saya payah ni).

pls berkunjung ke

1:31 PM  

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