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“I truly believe and I think I was proven right that there are many things that only a President could do and the problems were so important and were so deep that I felt that the authority… I suppose moral persuasion of a President was necessary for us to be able to figure out, and it really was, agriculture is a much much more complicated thing than most people understand…”.
This is President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., explaining why he appointed himself as agriculture secretary. From the above, one can hopefully glean that the President thought that only he, or rather his “moral persuasion,” could help the Department of Agriculture (DA) figure out its problems, seeing as agriculture is “much much” more complicated than most people understand.
And his “truly believe and…proven right” means that he thinks he was a success, so now he is able to turn over the helm to another.
What does the evidence show?
Let’s start with data from our National Income Accounts, from which we can compare the performance of the President against that of three immediate past predecessors.
The table below shows the growth rates (%) in the AFF (Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) sector, in constant 2018 pesos, in the first five quarters of the Presidential terms of Marcos Jr., Rodrigo Duterte, Benigno Aquino III, and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, respectively. I stopped at five quarters, obviously, because that is the length of time Marcos Jr. held the DA Secretary position.
Reader, this table shows that either because of, or despite Marcos Jr. being agriculture secretary, the performance of the AFF was dismally lower than its performance under his three Presidential predecessors, who preferred to appoint other people to the post. I am not saying that his predecessors in the DA were brilliant. I am not even saying they were good. But what the data show is that their performance as shown by AFF growth, was “much much” better than his.
Now, let’s compare Marcos Jr.’s performance against what the AFF sector set out to do as recorded in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028. The President loves to refer to it, talking about his desire to be transformative and digitalized. Its target with respect to growth in the AFF sector are 1.3% to 3.3% every year of the PDP. From the table above, the actual average growth rate during Marcos Jr.’s watch is 1.02% (five quarters). For his first year in office, it was 1.05%. And for the year ending in Q3 2023, it was 0.75%. So, AFF growth was not only lower than his three predecessors, but also much lower than the target he set for himself in the PDP.
The PDP’s also has a targeted growth rates of 2.3% to 5.5% a year for AFF labor productivity. What actually happened during Marcos Jr.’s watch as agricultural secretary? Labor productivity in agriculture, between Q3 2022 and Q3 2023 grew by 2.5%. The President hit the target, albeit at its lower end.
The last PDP target we look at has to do with the value of AFF exports increasing by 6.4% a year over the life of the Plan. How did Marcos Jr. do during his stint as agriculture secretary? From the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) National Income Accounts, we extract the following:
Growth rate of AFF products during Marcos Jr.’s agricultural stint: 215,803 – 246,728 = -30,925 => (-30,925/ 246,728) x 100 = -12.5%.
Remember, Reader, that the PDP target is for AFF exports to increase annually by 6.4%. Under Marcos Jr., not only did they not increase by that 6.4% a year, the value of real exports actually contracted by a dismaying 12.5%. And in his fifth quarter (Q3 2003), agriculture exports continued contracting.
Notice also that in the previous year, exports were increasing from the beginning of the period to the end. But under Marcos Jr., exports were continuously falling. This very, very poor performance, though, is not only the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Trade is also involved.
I need not discuss the sugar, onion and rice crises while the President was at the helm of the agricultural ship, and their effect on food prices. Neither do I need to discuss his broken promise about rice prices falling to P20 per kilo. These have already been discussed and commented on to death.
On the basis of the new evidence just presented, all government data, Reader, what is your verdict? – Rappler.com
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Solita “Winnie” Monsod was the first National Economic and Development Authority secretary appointed after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986. She is a professor emerita at the UP School of Economics where she taught starting 1983. She finished her degree in economics in UP and obtained her masters in economics at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a board director of Rappler Inc.
(Editor’s note: An initial version of this article contained an erroneous mathematical calculation on the growth rate of AFF products. We have corrected the error.)