Liberalist economies discourage government intervention as this indicates weak governance and institutions, and poor enforcement of laws and policies. If this will be the basis, the Kadiwa stores somehow provides a glimpse of the Philippine government under Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
The Kadiwa stores project is a campaign promise of Marcos Jr., that aims to offer agricultural produce at lower prices – usually in terms of price subsidies and direct farm-to-consumers linkages. A glaring example is the price of onions bought by the government at PhP570 per kilogram and sold to consumers at PhP 120 per kilogram or a subsidy of PhP 450 per kilogram.
But while this looks appealing to the poor consumers, the practice looks absurd considering that the poor ones cannot afford to go to Kadiwa stores due to high transportation costs. The poor having limited resources and with their “tingi mentality”, they would rather go to sari-sari stores as these can also offer them credit. Note that there are only around 500 Kadiwa stores nationwide according to the Presidential Communications Office. The figure is being dwarfed by the fact that there are at 26.39 million households in the Philippines living in some 42,000 barangays according to the Philippine Statistics Authority or PSA. In simple terms, only those who have money and are near the Kadiwa store locations will be able to access the same.
The practice of setting-up Kadiwa stores can also be interpreted to be beyond the mandate of the Department of Agriculture and venturing in the domains of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and, for subsidizing the consumer prices, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). The mandate of the DA is to be “responsible for the promotion of agricultural development by providing the policy framework, public investments, and support services needed for domestic and export-oriented business enterprises.” To address food security and resiliency, the DA is also mandated to “collectively empower the farmers and fishers, and the private sector to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, taking into account sustainable, competitive, and resilient technologies and practices.”
Instead of setting-up Kadiwa stores, the DA could put its money to good use by efficiently subsidizing the farm inputs and providing the farmers with appropriate equipment and technologies. It can also provide crop insurance to farmers considering that the country is always under threat of disasters and natural calamities. Note that at least 22 typhoons visit the Philippines annually.
The cost for Kadiwa store operations can also be used to finance agricultural data and information gathering to aid the DA in coming up with realistic, responsive and evidence-based policy framework and programs.
Marcos Jr., who also happens to be the Agriculture Secretary, can invest his intelligence funds in catching smugglers and hoarders. Under his watch, smuggling became rampant starting from sugar to rice, then garlic and onion. None, so far, has been prosecuted fueling the rumors that some relatives of the First Lady are involved.
While the Kadiwa store project attracts political supporters, it also repels opposition and victims of Martial Law. The project started during the time of Marcos Sr., and its revival just opens old wounds. This, definitely, is not helpful to the younger Marcos’s call for unity.
Given these, politically and economically, Kadiwa is simply “ka-hina”.