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AsiaGlobal Voices

Trending Opinions From Across the Region

AsiaGlobal Voices is a curated feed of summaries of opinion articles, columns and editorials published in local languages in media from across Asia.

The publication of AsiaGlobal Voices summaries does not indicate any endorsement by the Asia Global Institute or AsiaGlobal Online of the opinions expressed in them.
The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective
Tuesday, May 26, 2020
The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Cielito F Habito, economist and professor, in his No Free Lunch column in Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 26, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

The Jobs-Education Mismatch From The Students’ Perspective

Our high school graduates appear to be making the wrong choices of college courses, as they pursue degrees that do not lead to high-paying jobs. Yet earnings are their primary motivation for getting further education or training, according to a survey of college graduates who completed their studies between 2009 and 2011. The study affirms the widely observed jobs-education mismatch in our labor market, this time from the perspective of the learners.

The survey found that 15 courses accounted for more than 70 percent of the graduates, and nearly half had bachelor’s degrees in just five fields: nursing, elementary and secondary education, business administration, and commerce. But of the graduates in BS Nursing, which was the top course choice comprising 25 percent of females and 18 percent of the males of the graduates surveyed, nearly half (47.2 percent) were not working as nurses. They ended up as contact center information clerks (11 percent), retail and wholesale trade managers (8 percent), general office clerks (6.2 percent), cashiers and ticket clerks (3.5 percent), and even police officers (3.2 percent) and other unrelated occupations.

The biggest mismatch, it turns out, is in the graduates’ lack of the core skills of critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills, much more than technical skills. Both employers, in many past studies, and graduates, in this one, point to these as the serious gap that could be hardest to fill. It is the neglect of developing these in basic and college education that our education reforms must seek to change, if Filipinos are to propel our economy and society into one that is competitive, prosperous and resilient.


Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business and Executive Director of the Institute for Business in the Global Context at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, in The Indian Express (July 13, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Trump’s Anti-Student Salvo is an Attack on Liberalism

You may be among the 2,00,000 plus Indian students studying or planning to study in an American university. US President Donald Trump seems to have problems with “aliens” of many stripes. The latest anti-student salvo began with a White House proclamation to stop “aliens who present a risk to the US labor market”. Now we have guidance from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that will prevent all international students from getting or keeping a student visa if their classes are to be taught exclusively online.

The announcement risks making noncitizens of the US second-class citizens in digital classrooms. It eliminates the option of traveling to gain better digital access or time-zone synchronization. Those who are forced to return, must uproot themselves, face restrictions in travel, return to potentially unsafe conditions or carry unsafe conditions with them. The US has the highest volume of Covid-19 cases in the world.

So, why pick this fight? First, this is part of Trump’s push to get back to business-as-usual, a narrative essential for re-election. He’s been urging schools to re-open. The international student visa move is a way to strong-arm university administrations. Losing these students would mean loss of much-needed revenues for universities. Second, don’t forget the long-running China-as-enemy rhetoric. China is the biggest source of international students. A third reason has to do with the enemy within: liberalism. The three states that overwhelmingly benefit from international students – California, New York and Massachusetts – will, without question, vote for Joe Biden.

Finally, Trump knows his base gets weaker the closer you get to college. Sixty-four per cent of non-college-educated Whites supported Trump, as compared with 38 per cent of Whites with a university degree. Punishing colleges and “elitism” is a powerful part of the re-election narrative.


Diplomacy During the Pandemic
Monday, July 13, 2020
Diplomacy During the Pandemic

Retno LP Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, in Kompas (July 9, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Violaine Martin/United Nations)

Diplomacy During the Pandemic

The global crisis caused by Covid-19 has made it essential for Indonesian diplomacy to adapt rapidly in line with dynamic challenges in the current environment. No less than 215 states and territories are affected. The number of cases continues to creep upward, while at the same time panic grows over the impact on the global economy.

In the midst of such global panic, every nation has had to focus on meeting the requirements of their domestic situation. As a result, from the beginning of the pandemic, the diplomatic priority for Indonesia has been to fulfill two factors: the safety of its citizens both inside the country and overseas, and the availability of medical supplies.

Global solidarity is the key to emerging from this crisis. In April, we signed the UN General Assembly resolution on “Global solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease 2019”, which was supported by 188 states. At the same time, increasing self-sufficiency is important. Indonesia, for instance, is dependent on imports for 95 percent of its pharmaceutical ingredients.


Population in Freefall
Friday, July 10, 2020
Population in Freefall

Lee Woo-Il, Chairman, Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies, in Seoul Economic Daily (July 5, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: SUNY Korea)

Population in Freefall

In an ongoing overwhelming health crisis, we are overlooking another serious national plight – that of a population freefall. According to the “2020 World Population Prospects” report by the UN, South Korea ranks 198th in the world, with an extremely low fertility rate of 1.1.

Such a drastic reduction in population is a serious problem in many ways. For one, the current college enrollment of 500,000 students a year is soon expected to fall dramatically. In 1996, the government introduced a policy for the establishment of universities which led to a ballooning number of new institutions and graduates. As a result, an incredible 70-80 percent of the population graduate from college. But because there are not enough jobs for them, youth unemployment is high.

Another obvious problem is the stark decrease in the working population. The median age of the population is 43. This is expected to rise to over 50 by 2035. In the face of a looming crisis from the combination of an ageing and shrinking population, there seems to be only two solutions: accepting mass immigration, or restructuring industry to align with the changing population structure.  

The Fourth Industrial Revolution and the accompanying industry-wide changes at least seem to provide some relief. Increasing use of artificial intelligence and automation in production is expected to reduce overall jobs drastically, and given South Korea’s decreasing workforce, the burden of mass unemployment will be alleviated much more than in other countries. But in the face of a predictable combined population and industrial shock, the government would need to review various legal measures holding back innovation and private investments and restructure the current cookie-cutter conformist education system into one able to encourage citizens to excel in their strengths, creativity and individuality.


Fear and discrimination: Are Japanese cities ready for life with Covid-19?
Monday, July 6, 2020
Fear and discrimination: Are Japanese cities ready for life with Covid-19?

Keizo Yamawaki, Professor at the School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University, and Bob W White, Director of the Laboratory for Research on Intercultural Relations and Professor of Anthropology, Université de Montréal, in The Japan Times (July 3, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Fear and discrimination: Are Japanese cities ready for life with Covid-19?

There is nothing new about the tendency to look for scapegoats during pandemics. Indeed, at many points in history, anxiety about contagious disease has manifested itself in the form of fear mongering and xenophobia.

Outside of Asia there has been a significant increase in the number of hate speech incidents targeting people of Asian descent, and in some cases other groups (such as Hassidic Jews, Roma communities and various types of migrants) have also been targets of discrimination. Hate speech is increasingly gaining the attention of local and national governments, but from the legal and policy perspective many questions remain unresolved.

In pandemic, there have also been examples of discrimination against foreigners in Japan. Anonymous letters demanding that Chinese people should leave Japan were sent to restaurants in the Chinatown in Yokohama. When the Saitama municipal government began distribution of masks to local kindergartens, a Korean-owned kindergarten was deliberately excluded. When popular comedian Ken Shimura died of Covid-19, there were tweets saying he was murdered by Chinese.

As local governments in Japan attempt to make communities more inclusive, fighting discrimination has become one of the key issues in municipal integration policy. During a meeting organized by Hamamatsu in October 2019, officials from cities in Europe, Oceania and Asia discussed the importance of cities in the promotion of inclusion and social cohesion. We believe that the best way to promote inclusion in Japan is to build on the already existing network of cities. In the coming years of living with Covid-19, this renewed network will hopefully make it possible for cities in Japan to engage with cities elsewhere in the world, and for Japan to take its place in the global fight against discrimination and the exclusion of migrants.


Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States
Monday, July 6, 2020
Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States

Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), in The Nation (June 30, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Post-Covid, Sustainable Tourism, Fisheries Keys to Growth in Small-Island States

Compared to other developing countries, small-island developing states (SIDS) in the Asia-Pacific region have done well in containing the spread of the virus. So far, available data indicates relatively few cases of infections, with 15 deaths in Maldives, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Yet, while rapid border closures have contained the human cost of the virus, the economic and social impacts of the pandemic on SIDS will place Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) even farther out of their reach.

One reason SIDS economies have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic is their dependence on tourism. Tourism earnings exceed 50 per cent of GDP in the Maldives and Palau and comprised 30 per cent in Samoa and Vanuatu in 2018. The severe impact of Covid-19 on these economies is also a result of heavy reliance on fisheries, which represent a main source of SIDS marine wealth and bring much-needed public revenue. The coronavirus crisis will jeopardize these income streams as a result of a slowdown in fisheries activity.

As part of the post-virus recovery, new foundations for sustainable tourism and fisheries in Asia-Pacific SIDS must be built. These sectors must not only have extensive links to local communities and economies, but also be resilient to external shocks. Enhancing economic resilience must focus on building both the necessary physical infrastructure and creating institutional response mechanisms.

The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder of the price of weaknesses in health systems, social protection and public services. It also provides a historic opportunity to advocate for policy decisions that are pro-environment, pro-climate and pro-poor. Progress in our region’s SIDS through sustainable tourism and fisheries are vital components of a global road map for an inclusive and sustainable future.


Parliamentary Elections: Nation at a Crossroads
Monday, July 6, 2020
Parliamentary Elections: Nation at a Crossroads

Joseph Leopold Ratnasekera, Catholic priest and missionary, in Daily Mirror (July 6, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Presidential Secretariat, Sri Lanka)

Parliamentary Elections: Nation at a Crossroads

Sri Lanka will hold its 16th parliamentary election on August 5 this year. The time has come for the country to discern the sad situation we are in and look for alternative political choices that will put in power only genuine and authentic politicians.

The most crucial problem is the lack of production in our export sectors, in the apparel and textile industries that have to be revamped. The fast-dwindling tea, rubber and coconut industries have to be saved with more creative policies and reinforced for greater production with modern technologies. The export sector is always the livewire of any economic stability of any country. It will minimize the need of imports. There is so much that can be produced locally to cater to the local population as well. Hard work has to be encouraged and excellence demanded in all fields of industry.

There must be a firm resolve to curb bribery and corruption in the government and stringent measures have to be taken to ensure honesty, transparency and accountability in the way these offices are held and performed. Much of the loss of quality resulting in the wane and the bane in national politics has been the rash and recklessness of those holding public office. In the over-all context of the national scenario, all are agreed on the urgency of a bounce-back plan to revive the virus-saddled economy that has experienced considerable setbacks in many sectors.

Let there not be any unpatriotic trend mooted or vicious cry raised for autonomous rule in any part of the country. This island-nation is one with one Sri Lankan identity. All races and religious groups must unite in one common ideal of pursuing a prosperous and peaceful motherland for all.


How to Make Dhaka University the “Oxford of the East” Again
Monday, July 6, 2020
How to Make Dhaka University the “Oxford of the East” Again

Saifur Rashid, Professor of Anthropology, University of Dhaka, in Dhaka Tribune (July 5, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: Nurunnaby Chowdhury (Hasive))

How to Make Dhaka University the “Oxford of the East” Again

We know that public universities stand to provide any student, irrespective of their financial background, an education upon passing the competitive admission process. They are not like private universities, where students have to spend a lot of money to get a degree, although they have some scholarships for the poorer students.

Historically, the students and faculties of the University of Dhaka (DU) have not only been engaged in learning, teaching, and research but have also been playing a very significant role in various social, cultural, and political movements in the country.

Despite various limitations, DU is still ranked as the best university in the country. But we can’t be happy with this. We want to make our university world class. Before celebrating the centenary of DU in 2021, we need to examine our methods and figure out how we can take our university to a certain height by raising the quality of teaching and research.

How are we going to live up to the challenge of branding the university, which was once called the “Oxford of the East,” and meet the standards set by the development of science, technology, and the liberal arts in the 21st century?

The alumni can come forward to raise sufficient funds for research and provide scholarships to the students to go to the best universities for higher education. To make DU one of the finest seats of learning regionally as well as globally, we need to prepare a 25-year perspective plan with immediate, mid- and long-term targets.

Every member of DU and its alumni who are proud of their engagements and contributions to building the nation would also like to feel more pride by rebuilding the image of this university and converting it to a world class center for the production and dissemination of knowledge.


The Minimal-Contact Economy
Friday, July 3, 2020
The Minimal-Contact Economy

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister for Research and Technology of Indonesia, in Kompas (June 23, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: Said Safri / Shutterstock.com)

The Minimal-Contact Economy

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating economic impact on Indonesia. A number of practices which have no precedent in this republic such as working from home, social distancing and large-scale social restrictions that have been in place for three months have shaken our economy. Economic activity involving lots of human labor has more or less stopped, including in the informal sector. Many economic activities that require a physical presence no longer operate, leaving a part of the public without income.

As a result, in addition to the slowing economy, unemployment and poverty are increasing. While this is a disturbing situation, the example of other countries that were hit earlier made it clear that the coronavirus spreads quickly and takes many lives. There was no choice but to limit social interaction.

How long will this last? There is no clear answer, although the ideal would be to find a vaccine. However, this will take time, and economic activities cannot be stopped. As free people, humans do not wish to be detained for very long.


Defending Tech Sovereignty
Friday, July 3, 2020
Defending Tech Sovereignty

Arghya Sengupta, Research Director at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, and Lalitesh Katragadda, Founder, Indihood, in The Times of India (July 3, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes

Defending Tech Sovereignty

As Indian soldiers face the Chinese army in Ladakh, their courage in defending our borders makes our hearts both heavy and proud. However, as citizens, our actions belie our feelings. India’s trade deficit with China is US$48.5 billion, on the back of China’s near-complete domination of India’s consumer electronics market. The resulting economic upside is significant enough to fund China’s entire military expenditure on the Indian border. How do we face our soldiers and tell them that we are bankrolling the very peril that they are bravely pushing back against?

In this context, the decision by the Indian government to ban 59 Chinese apps including TikTok and WeChat is a significant statement of intent. Section 69A of the Information Technology Act allows the government to block access to any content on the internet if protection of Indian sovereignty requires such blocking.

While any direct connections between companies which own the blocked apps and the Chinese government are difficult to detect, by virtue of China’s national intelligence law every technology company in the country is under a legal obligation to “assist and cooperate with state intelligence”. Further, according to China’s cybersecurity law, all companies “must accept supervision from the government”. When that government wages war on India’s borders, a strong case exists to follow due procedure and block these applications.

Ultimately, in technology as in the economy, we need to learn from our soldiers on the front. We need to steel ourselves for a few years of hardship with knowledge and belief that we will overcome. If we don’t, our dream of a tech sovereign India will become like a TikTok video – short-lived and illusory. If we do, perhaps our foes may never dare to draw battle lines inside our physical territory.


The Tyranny of Power Asymmetry and Dependence
Thursday, July 2, 2020
The Tyranny of Power Asymmetry and Dependence

Maleeha Lodhi, former ambassador of Pakistan to the US, UK and UN, in Dawn (June 29, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: United States Institute of Peace)

The Tyranny of Power Asymmetry and Dependence

Pakistan’s foreign policy objectives have principally been shaped by its geostrategic location in a tough neighborhood. This explains why security concerns had such a dominant influence. The sweep of foreign policy over the decades reveals a complex interplay between internal and external factors, and between domestic goals and an ever-changing international environment.

Of course, big power interests had a major impact on policy, intersecting with elite interests to sometimes complicate if not aggravate Pakistan’s challenges. An unedifying aspect of this was a mindset of dependence fostered among officials during prolonged periods of the country’s alignments. This dependence proved to be habit forming. Reliance on external financial assistance created a perverse incentive for urgent economic reform and serious domestic resource mobilization. It also encouraged ruling elites to constantly look outside to address financial deficits and other sources of internal vulnerabilities, even see outsiders as catalytic agents to promote development and solve problems at home.

The most recent turning point has seen Pakistan tie its strategic future more firmly to China while facing an implacably hostile India. In fact, the country’s daunting foreign policy challenges call for a more imaginative strategy to navigate a more complex and unsettled multipolar world.

The world has changed fundamentally but habits ingrained over the years by the ruling elite have yet to do so. Pakistan learnt to rely on itself for its defense when it pursued and acquired the strategic capability to deter aggression. But the habit persists of seeking help from foreign donors to deal with chronic financing gaps — frequently dramatized by frantic trips to Arab capitals. A similar lesson has yet to be learnt about financial self-reliance which is only possible through bold fiscal reform and a reordering of budget priorities. The tyranny of dependence waits to be overcome.


Democracy is in Jeopardy over the DPRK
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Democracy is in Jeopardy over the DPRK

Yun Duk-min Yun, Chancellor of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, in Chosun Ilbo (June 27, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Photo credit: Cheong Wa Dae, The Republic of Korea)

Democracy is in Jeopardy over the DPRK

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office building. Given the special context of the North and the South, this act is equivalent to an attack of a diplomatic office. Most countries in such situations would consider military action, and at the very least, immediately cease diplomatic relation. President Moon Jae-in responded that he will remain patient, adding that it was the South that broke a promise with propaganda provocation. His administration calls for providing additional support to the North and passing laws against further civilian provocation.

What is most infuriating is that this attitude of the leadership is jeopardizing the South’s hard-fought democracy. South Korea is a UN member state and its government holds no power to restrict its citizens’ basic rights over bilateral agreements or treaties. Criminalizing South Korean citizens from practicing their freedom of speech over an agreement with the DPRK is just that.

Not only the freedom of speech but also human rights is sacrificed when it comes to the DPRK. Despite South Korea’s usual solid stance of protecting its citizens’ rights abroad, this stops at the DPRK. There are six South Korean nationals detained in the North. This is in addition to 11 passengers from the Korean Air Lines plane hijacked in 1969 and another estimated 20,000 and 516 civilians kidnapped during and after the Korean War. Yet the issue of releasing detained citizens went unmentioned during the three inter-Korea summits held between the current leaders of the two Koreas.

The DPRK is a special country that must be dealt with through cooperation and mutual respect at all costs. But the attitude of the current leadership makes one question whether democracy and human rights still make up the fundamental core of our national identity.


Open Season on the Free press
Wednesday, June 24, 2020
Open Season on the Free press

Randy David, sociologist and journalist, in his Public Lives column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (June 21, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: PCOO EDP/King Rodriguez)

Open Season on the Free press

When Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016, the media organizations that had been critical of him during the campaign became his principal targets. He named three in particular: the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer, the broadcast network ABS-CBN, and the news website Rappler. He attacked all three for biased and distorted reporting.

Duterte accused the Inquirer owners of not paying the correct taxes on their other businesses, and of illegally extending a lease on a choice property in the city owned by a government agency in exchange for low rental. He denounced ABS-CBN for taking his money and not airing his campaign advertisements during the 2016 presidential election and accused its owners of not paying their debts to a government-owned bank. He vowed to prevent the renewal of the network’s franchise, telling its owners to sell the company instead. Irked by its critical reporting on the conduct of his bloody war on drugs, he banned the Rappler reporter from entering Malacañang (the presidential palace).

All this would have been more than enough to cue everyone in the hunting party to pursue the prey. But the president never stopped issuing the call for the hunt. He would repeat the same charges each time he went off-script in his rambling speeches. It came to a point when he sounded as if he wanted nothing less than a lynching.

To ignore this context and the authoritarian viciousness that has preceded the state-enabled proceedings against the Inquirer, ABS-CBN, and Rappler is to subject oneself to willful blindness. It would not be unlike covering the rest of a patient’s body with a sheet during surgery to show only the choice tissue of the moment. It is to disregard the rest of the morbid mess underlying the president’s obsessive focus on the offending wound.


The Limits of Freedom of Speech
Monday, June 22, 2020
The Limits of Freedom of Speech

Lee Jin-soo, journalist, in Asia Business Daily (June 19, 2020)

Summary by Soomi Hong (Picture credit: Uri Tours)

The Limits of Freedom of Speech

North Korea made headlines when it cut the communication lines to the South and destroyed the inter-Korean liaison office building. The North cited the leaflets sent across the border by North Korean defector communities residing in South Korea as reason for their hostile actions. In an effort to cool the tensions, the South Korean government declared its plans to take legal action against the said organizations for violating the Inter-Korean Interchange and Cooperation Act and to cancel their registration as legal organizations. 

Some worry that these measures are in violation of freedom of speech and the rights to information of the North Korean citizens. Sending cross-border propaganda leaflets is a right to free expression, but few can deny that this form of expression is a dangerous act that could trigger military conflicts on the sensitive Korean peninsula.

Furthermore, there have been multiple agreements made over the years between the two Koreas to refrain from slandering and defaming the other. The most recent Panmunjom Declaration of 2018 specifically calls for a stop to loudspeaker propaganda and leaflet distribution in the DMZ area.

The South Korean Constitution grants freedom of speech but asserts the need to withhold this freedom when necessary for national security, for maintenance of law and order, or for public welfare. This was the basis for the Supreme Court’s decision allowing the government to limit the civil society’s leaflet propaganda for reasons of national security.

However important, freedom of speech cannot take precedence over peace, and the government must stop the leaflet propaganda.


Playing it Safe and Getting by in the World
Monday, June 22, 2020
Playing it Safe and Getting by in the World

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok Post (June 19, 2020)

Summary by Alejandro Reyes (Photo credit: World Travel & Tourism Council)

Playing it Safe and Getting by in the World

Even prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Thailand's strategic posture had been dominated by political preoccupations at home. The pandemic merely accentuated trends and patterns in Thailand's foreign policy and security outlook in view of the geopolitical rivalry and competition between the US and China.

As virus infections have recently shown signs of slowing down, Thailand's strategic role and challenges are on course to return in full, just as they were prior to the virus outbreak. The domestic political instability from cycles of coups, constitutions, and elections since constitutionalism replaced the absolute monarchy in 1932 has made Thailand unable to make a break for a stable political future for the majority of its people. In turn, these domestic shortcomings have hindered Thailand's role abroad.

Thailand's circular holding pattern risks sliding into anemic economic growth while some of its neighbors have been expanding twice as fast with more dynamic prospects and progress ahead.

The coronavirus crisis has compounded Thailand's headwinds as the economy is forecast to suffer the deepest contraction compared to its ASEAN peers. Moreover, Thailand's structural reforms and economic upgrading to move up value chains and out of the middle-income trap have made little progress, with no promising prospects as long as the political environment remains murky.

Thailand will not be acting belligerently abroad to divert attention away from domestic problems. The country will continue to be risk-averse, playing it safe and getting by in international life. For the rest of the world, this country cannot be ignored without considerable geopolitical costs. But for the Thais, their country cannot regain strategic heft and command global attention until it goes through a kind of reckoning at home to see what kind of polity and country they want to end up with for a position and role abroad.


The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers
Thursday, June 18, 2020
The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers

Khudori, member of the Food Security Council Working Group, in Republika (June 16, 2020)

Summary by Keith Loveard (Photo credit: PK Niyogi)

The Plight of the Sugar-Cane Farmers

The sugar cane harvest season is upon us again. Since May, farmers have been cutting their cane and taking it to factories for processing. Sadly, like years before, they are doing so just as prices collapse. They face a dilemma: If they process their cane, they will suffer a loss. If they do not, they know it is likely that the market will be filled with imported sugar.

Panicking because of a shortfall in the market and rising prices for sugar, the government since March has been handing out import licenses. In total, 1.14 million tons is being imported. As a result, the market has been overwhelmed with sugar. 

According to Guntur Saragih, a member of the Commission for the Supervision of Business Competition, there are indications of cartel practices in the supply of sugar to the market. Importers, distributors and traders play with the price to the point that the consumer has to pay heavily. Every opportunity for such manipulation needs to be firmly closed so that farmers can get a reasonable return.