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Private sector in agriculture governance

The private sector (here defined as including both business and civil society) must play a key role in agriculture governance. Though it is the government that has the final say, the private sector must be involved in the formulation and implementation of government policies, strategies and programs. This is an essential component in Agriculture Secretary William Dar’s “new thinking.” But how will this be done?

During the Oct. 13 meeting of Secretary Dar with heads of the five coalitions that make up the Agri Fisheries Alliance (AFA), he instituted a management procedure that had not been done before. This was started with AFA, which represents the following: farmers and fisherfolk (Alyansa Agrikultura), agribusiness (Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc., or PCAFI), science and academe (Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines Inc., or CAMP), rural women (Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan, or PKKK) and multisectors (Agrifisheries 2025, AF 2025, where Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry is the largest group).

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In the past, the private sector was given participation in governance through the legally mandated public-private Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF). However, there was no assigned point person in the private sector for specific key agriculture programs.

Consequently, when a program succeeded or failed, no specific private sector person was identified for that program’s performance.

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At the Feb. 13 meeting, Dar identified one person in the Department of Agriculture and another in the private sector to be the main counterparts in coordinating the public and private components of a given program.

This is similar to governance in Malaysia, which is often cited for its effective delivery of government services.

For Malaysia’s key programs, the traditional practice of identifying the government person in charge is innovatively supplemented by an identified specific private sector leader who will work with the government official in the program’s successful delivery. The private sector person gets inputs, from his counterparts, offers the government these official inputs and harnesses private sector support for the program.

It is clear that the government official has the final say. But this time, there is an identified private person identified to collect and contribute private sector inputs along with other leaders.

On his first day in office, Dar explained his “new thinking” for road maps: The formulation of a road map should involve small holder farmers/fisherfolk, civil society groups and the private sector.” The PCAF already has committees that review DA’s programs. But this is done in a general way. No specific private person is identified to be the lead for a key program. Consequently, when a program falls below expectations, no specific private person is identified for its lackluster performance.

This will be improved. Using road maps as an example, the person Dar has identified is Danilo Fausto, former DA agri-entrepreneur of the year. He is now the president of an AA coalition, PCAFI. In PCAFI, there are successful champions of 24 agricultural commodities. Each will now be tasked to help the DA in the formulation and implementation of a road map that will improve the commodity’s successful performance. Several private sector groups will contribute to this, but now there will be an identified private sector coordinator.

The immediate task is the submission of key items for the DA proposed budget for 2021. This should be done by the end of March, when the government budget cycle begins. This time, instead of sometimes the DA mistakenly asking for budget items not wanted by the beneficiaries (e.g., the reported unused unsuitable agriculture machinery), the DA will be helped by the systematic collection of recommendations from the private sector for each identified program.

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We are seeing a new dawn of private sector involvement in Dar’s “new thinking.” Let the private sector not let him down.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects and former undersecretary of Agriculture and Trade and Industry. Contact him via [email protected]

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