Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scale Up the Relief Pack

The standard DSWD relief pack is 5kg of rice, 6 noodles, 6 canned goods and 6 sachets of coffee. It differs a little bit in various situations, of course.

So a family representative queues up at the relief center, gets a pack and goes back to where his family of six is currently holed up, say a kilometer or two away but hopefully unexposed to the elements. After a day or so, his family runs out of food and queues up again at the center. It means that he is wasting his energy everyday as he keeps coming back, and likewise it does not help that the relief center is always congested with people in need.

Some scaling up may have to be done when we are packing our relief goods. Perhaps a pack that will last a week for a family of six. This will help in  managing the congesting effect of "return customers" of the center, and allow breathing space for those running it.

Every family that achieves some level of comfort in terms of having secured food for a week, will then find time to focus on reestablishing their foothold in this life. They can start clearing up their devastated houses, bury their dead, set up perimeters of safety, and even extend a helping hand to their old neighbours. But the nagging fear of whether the family will eat tomorrow will create a state of mind that simply awaits for daybreak to come so the father can walk 2 kilometers and queue up at the relief center again.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

On Haiyan aftermath, If I am Government - Part2

A couple of weeks from now, the government should already start pondering about what is next after the first few salvos of aid go into the areas ravaged by Yolanda. At some point, after people had been relieved of their initial needs, the next question is how to re-ignite the local economy. Today it has gone into full-stop mode, with people more concerned about basic survival stuff than being productive. As we all know, productivity is the fuel of the economy, so it has to be kick-started again. Real recovery starts when people start producing food again rather than relying on food caravans being brought in.

Local governments should get re-established, and calamity funds given to achieve certain magnitude of control. The LGUs should start hiring people to work, e.g., for clearing operations, so the ability to buy will be restored. But the other side of it is that there should be something to buy.  So mom-and-pop stores will have to be rebuilt and re-stocked. Food and groceries on-wheels, and construction materials can be brought in by entrepreneurs from nearby towns spared by the calamity.

The other thing is that people should be able to produce food itself. So that they can first produce what they need on their own tables, and sell or trade any excess. Vegetable seeds and seedlings should be brought in and people should be coaxed into planting, rearing and eventually harvesting the fruits of their own labor. The process is by itself a good healing for the psyche. It will aid in the restoration of sense of control of their own lives at the family level, which after all is the basic unit of society.

On Haiyan aftermath, If I am Government.

Looking at what is happening in Central Philippines in the aftermath of Yolanda (Haiyan), government must realize that it is all basic supply and demand. There is now very little food, water, medicines, medical care, law and order, etc. The demand for all these is sky high, and supply is almost nil.

If I am government my approach will be 2-pronged. One, to bring in as many, in the shortest time possible, which I realize is a tall order. but the second, which is just as important as the first, is to decongest the ravaged places by allowing people to get out of there and move to their relatives in Cebu, Catarman, Maasin, Bicol, CARAGA, Metro Manila, etc. Every person that we will manage to bring out of the affected areas has a double impact in terms of capacity of government and the NGOs currently trying to bring order and manage the disaster areas. There will be less strain on the food and medical service resources, there will be less possibility of getting affected by any outbreak of diseases, and there will be less partcipants to any chaos that might ensue.

Every plane, boat and vehicle that arrives in those ravaged areas should be mandated to take in a full load of passengers when going out. Cut the suffering population by half by moving them out, and solve the problem twice as fast.

And how should a plan to establish a system look like, if I am government? My answer is also two-fold. One is go right into the center and try to establish a stronghold. Clear out an area near the port or airport, and establish a "government" that is primarily secure (with military presence), and ready to receive humantiarian aid from established organizations like the Red Cross and UN. I understand this is what government is doing now. In addition, clear out an area so a makeshift hospital and command center can be established by the Red Cross. Set up a repository of relief goods designed to take in, and take out for distribution on the same day. If any relief pack stays in storage for a full day, the system is not good enough. This means that a network of distribution has to be done immediately using a spider-web approach. Bring the goods to the closest areas, assure them of supply of food in the next few days so that order can be established, and people can concentrate on clean up, finding their deceased kins and burying them decently. Then , move the web of supply to the next surrounding layer. On the other hand, government should also set up and replicate the command centers  in nearby towns spared by Yolanda. For example,  in Catarman (or Catbalogan?) in order to reach out to Borongan; Maasin in order to reach Ormoc and Tacloban; and Iloilo in order to reach Roxas and Aklan. Let the efforts emanate from both  center and periphery, so that people in the middle will be encouraged to move outwards rather than congest in the center only because that is where help is pouring in.

LGUs in surrounding unaffected towns need not send in relief goods, but rather help clear up and secure road networks, and send in vehicles to ferry people out. Keep the relief goods in their own towns and use them to provide care for whoever will be brought into their towns by their convoys.
CARAGA and other Northern Mindanao LGUs can bring in boats, not to bring aid but to invite people to go with them into their provinces, and there be assured of care and sustenance.

The operative word is "decongest". Supply and demand are two sides of the same coin.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Issue of Unemployment - Part 6 (Enter the Planner)

Monetarism will not guarantee solutions to equity and unemployment concerns. Likewise, it can not resolve structural problems at hand simply because the problems are no macroeconomic, but rather,  spatial in context.

Providing efficient mass transit systems to bridge the physical gap between work and home may be one of the obvious solutions to immobility. However, it may not change the physical proximity and may only lessen the travel time factor involved to  a certain extent. Other much more integrated type of approach must be thought of. For instance, the provision of affordable housing  close to where the jobs are may be  considered similar to what was implied in the Industry Commission  Report (cited in BIE, 1994). Residential segregation should likewise be  overcome  while social mix and other socially-desirable strategies (on taxes, superannuations, training, wage flexibilities etc.) may be included in the integrated approach.

Again, as all these are more spatial and in the micro-level  rather than macroeconomic, there is now a shift of burden from the macroeconomist to the planner in terms of drawing solutions to the structural unemployment problems. In the hands of the planner, more realistic solutions based on realistic experiences and views are expected to be conceived.

With the above conclusion, it follows that governments need not abandon their job-creation objectives and strategies under a Keynesian  approach. It will make more sense if instead, governments continue their interventionist role by deliberately creating jobs while at the same time, assisting the business/private sector in the expansion of their productive activities. There should be a foresight that supporting the private sector will mean  more people being employed in the long run.
As interventionist, the government may be able to ensure that the new money injected through public expenditures and private sector supports will accrue to increases in  production and  employment  and will not trigger inflationary effects. In other words, inflation may still be put under control without necessarily sacrificing  employment, thus, disproving the Phillips Curve. xxx

Baddock, G. R.E. Baxter and E. Davis (1992) “Dictionary of Economics” Penguin  Group,          England.
Bureau of Industry Economics (1994) “Regional Development: Patterns and Policy Implications” Research Report No. 56, Australia
Hall, P. (1991) “Cities in the Informational Economy”. Urban Futures, Vol. No. 5
Kalachek, E.D.  (Rasmussen, D.W. and C.T. Haworth, eds.) (1973) “The Modern City”. Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., New York.
Mcconell C. (1988) “Principles of Economics”. Prentice Hall, Australia.
Netzer, D. (1970) “Economics and Urban Problems” Basic Books, Inc., USA.
Neutze M. (19__) “The  Need for a Government role”.
Samuelson, P. (1982) “Economics” McGraw-Hill Publishing, Inc., New York.
Stillwell, F. (1993) “Reshaping Australia: Urban Problems and Policies” Pluto Press,   Leichhardt.
Wadell, P. (1994) “Dallas: Will the Suburbanization Never  Cease” Built Environment Vol. 20. No.1, Alexandrine Press, Oxford.