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Roadmaps transforming rhetoric into reality

To translate agriculture development rhetoric into actual productivity and job creation, you need good roadmaps. For certain agriculture products, we have none. And when we do have them, several are not as useful as they can potentially be. Agriculture growth then suffers, with our losing to agriculture imports supported by other countries’ good agriculture roadmaps. How can we succeed if we don’t know what we should do based on where we should be positioning ourselves in the next five to 10 years ?

Today, specific plans and programs are reactive on a short-term basis, rather than proactive on a long-term basis. On his first day in office on Aug. 8, 2019, Agriculture Secretary William Dar saw this glaring gap. He made roadmaps one of his eight priorities in his “new thinking” for agriculture. Unfortunately, without the budget and the people, he did not start as fast as he had wanted to.

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This past week, this effort has accelerated. Whereas previously, agriculture had no common outline resulting in spotty and inconsistent quality, there is now a standard outline that will ensure thoroughness and quality. The Department of Agriculture is getting commodity experts and asking the private sector to respond to their findings. For example, the following is the schedule for the experts’ meeting this week: April 23: rice; April 26: morning- fisheries and agriculture; afternoon- livestock and poultry; April 27: coffee and cacao. Next week, it is the turn of the stakeholders to give their input using the same groupings.

There may be a misinterpretation in implementing the “experts first, stakeholders next” order of meetings. Under a previous administration, I saw this happen when experts presented their draft to the stakeholders and asked for their comments. The stakeholders did not agree. Rather than correct this, this roadmap stayed unused for many years. It is only now that it is being addressed in a better way.

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There are two recommendations to ensure roadmaps will actually help transform rhetoric into reality. The first is that the stakeholders should be the main developers of the roadmap, with the experts commenting and guiding them. Many times, the government hires the experts who do some consultation with the stakeholders, then ask the stakeholders to comment on the plan they had just developed. It is like giving the answer without knowing the question. This is similar to starting with supply, then asking how the demand can adjust to the supply given.

At the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the private sector formulates and funds its own unique industry roadmaps.

They follow a standard DTI roadmap outline to make sure all important elements are covered. If acceptable to the government, the stakeholders proceed to get from government what it needs. In return, the government gets from the private sector what it requires.

The private sector feels it is their roadmap with government guidance. This is quite different from what often happened in agriculture during previous administrations. During roadmap formulation, the agriculture stakeholders felt it was the government’s roadmap, which they could comment on for improvement. I believe this was a major factor on why industry growth averaged 6.8 percent compared to agriculture’s 1.6 percent growth over a nine year period.

The second recommendation is that there must be an implementation team for each roadmap. Agriculture generally does not use this mechanism today. This team includes other government agencies and other types of agriculture stakeholders. There will be two leaders: the chair will come from the government, while the cochair will be elected from the private sector. Both will be held responsible and accountable for the roadmap’s success or failure.

As the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s chair of the industry roadmap subcommittee (there is no equivalent for agriculture yet), we conducted a survey on the usefulness of roadmaps to the respective industry leaders. The majority found them quite useful. Upon further analysis, we found a three-part formula for the teams that helped create the most revenue and profit for their constituents: (1) the teams met on a given schedule regularly; (2) both the government and private sector leads felt equally responsible for the roadmap’s success, and (3) the government and private sector leads cultivated a good personal relationship and called each other often between meetings even for minor details. This winning formula should be considered for agriculture roadmaps.

Though the government is indispensable for roadmap formulation and implementation, agriculture stakeholders should be so involved that they would “own” the roadmap and feel responsible and accountable for its success. Only then can roadmaps transform agriculture rhetoric into the successful reality we long for.

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