I remember when I was in middle school I stumbled upon a now closed web magazine, generationrice.com. They were giving out free I ❤ Rice stickers and I got some cause, well, it’s true.

Last night I went to my neighborhood palengke in Krus na Ligas and bought a kilo of rice at a choking P32. Eventhough the price of bigas has been around 30-something pesos for a while now, it was still the talk of the tambays.

So this is the crisis that hits everyone. This is now the crisis that Malacañang is scrambling to keep up with. Perhaps only the politically astute will rally over corruption, but the masses will riot over food.

So what is Malacañang doing? According to the main headline of today’s Inquirer, GMA has lifted the quota on rice importation. Sounds good, right? Think again…according to the article,

“The private sector is allowed to import a maximum of 300,000 metric tons of rice annually. But private traders have imported less than 10 percent of that volume over the past two years because of high world prices and the tariff.”

In other words, importation already occurs way below the government-imposed quota and so Lifting the quota doesn’t matter! So these are the educated people we have running the nation? If I was Georgetown I would be embarrassed at what this woman is doing to the reputation of my economics department.

In related news, Conrad DeQuiros’ article puts into context the rice crisis.

“Raul Gonzalez has created the Anti-Rice Hoarding Task Force which will hound ‘unscrupulous rice traders for acts inimical to public interest,’…You want to jail for life the friendly neighborhood Chinese or “Bombay” who rips off Juan de la Cruz at the margin while providing him with goods and services government cannot…

“Compare the entire agricultural subsidy (P5 billion) with the $130-million “bukol” [bulge] Jun Lozada accused Benjamin Abalos of demanding from the national broadband network deal. At the exchange rate then, Abalos would have gotten around P6.5 billion…That is just one kickback by one official from one deal. Imagine the size of the “bukol” the First Couple alone are causing on Juan de la Cruz’s head. You want the Binondo cartel to rot for life in jail and the Malacañang Mafia to rule for life in the Palace by the river?

“The second thing that’s wrong with the picture is less obvious but more insidious. That is that the cause of the disease is pretending to be its cure. Arroyo did not create the rice crisis but she created the situation that made us exceptionally vulnerable to it. She it was who obsessively pursued a policy of relying on global markets for rice on the ground that it was cheaper to buy it than to produce it.”

Yes, in the end it all comes back to the farmer. We are now paying the price for our disdain of the farmer. But, as much as I enjoy taking part in the GMA-bashing, let us look not only at her but at her friends the Sy’s. We are a country awash in subdivisions and malls, where a new SM opens every other month in even the most far-flung locations. Of course, this occurs at the price of farmland. We are living in a culture and economy where all income is disposable, instead of saving, people rush to SM to buy things that they don’t need and then complain that they have no money.

As the discussion went in Krus na Ligas last night, dame nang damit, wala nang pagkain.