1 bs_bs_banner Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, vol. 3, no. 3, pp doi: /app5.150 Original Article Linkage between Rural Voters and Politicians: Effects on Rice Policies in the Philippines and Thailand Arnold H. Fang* Abstract This article explains how linkages between politicians and rural voters affected the design of agricultural policies, using rice in two countries as examples. In the Philippines, colonial history bolstered an oligarchy of landed elite politicians, whose power was restored after the dictatorship of Marcos ended in Their practice of patronage brought corruption that led to dwindling rice productivity and increasing import dependence while displacing the political necessity to offer price support to farmers. In Thailand, sociopolitical development was more centralized, with new electoral rules introduced in 1997 to weaken locally confined patronage arrangements. Mass parties competing on a policy platform were favoured instead, resulting in increasing, but eventually, excessive subsidies for rice farmers. Although voter politician linkages resulted in different rice policies in the two countries, recent instability in the world rice market showed that strategies with greater sustainability considerations are needed in addressing domestic income disparities and global food insecurity. Key words: food security, political institutions, patronage, Thailand, Philippines * National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, Tokyo, Japan and Faculty of Social Science, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, Hong Kong, 1. Introduction The rice market in the past decade was marked by episodes where the decisions taken by individual key importing and exporting countries have affected or, at least, cast uncertainty on rice supply and prices. These happenings warrant a deeper scrutiny of rice policies as of whether they truly enhance the productivity of small farmers, and the healthy operation of world markets. In particular, how are these seemingly sudden measures related to longer term policy trends, or even more fundamental ways in which politics is conducted in a country? This study is based mainly on interviews in the Philippines and Thailand between 2011 and Both countries have taken measures in recent years that were controversial and potentially threatening to the supply of rice in the world market. This study takes these decisions as a starting point and shows how they are related to rice policy trends in these two countries. It then explains how recent trends in rice policies meaning high levels of farmer subsidies in rice-exporting Thailand and the lack of such in the rice-importing Philippines are related to these linkages between politicians and rural voters. Linkages between politicians and rural voters have been described previously in existing work. Scott (1976) described the informal rule of reciprocity embedded in patronage relations of pre-modern Southeast Asian societies, which persists in the Philippines today. In exchange for services under the headings of social protection and material welfare,rural clients show their loyalty to landlords or local. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
2 506 Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies September 2016 patrons through personal service or political support, formal or informal. The power base of such patrons made it difficult for central governments to achieve social control, because elites each had in their hands a web of societies that played by their own rules (Migdal 1988). This relationship evolved into the tie between national leaders and voters via local leaders who harvest votes through material incentives or violent threats in the Philippines today (Thompson 2010, p. 6). The linkage is one that is based on direct material inducements targeted to individuals and small groups of citizens (Kitschelt & Wilkinson 2007, p. 2). Unlike Migdal s model of relations between the state and elites, Popkin (1980) wrote that the state could also choose to come between the landlord (patrons) and the peasants (clients). The state could ensure the freedom of peasants by providing various forms of services such as farming advice and disaster relief and undermine the power of the local patrons. Such was the case of Thailand, where recent political development saw the rise of mass parties campaigning with pro-poor or populist platforms. Although political behaviour was still characterized by patterns of exchange, the role of landlords and local patrons was replaced by organized political parties (Hopkin 2006). As will be shown, the different linkages between rural voters and politicians in the Philippines and Thailand (localized patronage versus mass party populism) have given rise to different rice policies in recent years. 2. Rice Policies in the Philippines and Thailand Rice is the main staple of half the world s population and constitutes 20% of its total calorie intake (FAO 2006). Asian governments define food security as a political concept, in terms of their ability to maintain reasonably stable rice prices in their countries, and fear the response of citizens to a highly volatile rice economy (Timmer 2014). The actions of a few major players easily effect on the supply and hence prices in the market, as only 7% the whole world s rice production is traded internationally. The Philippines and Thailand are selected because they are key actors in the international rice market: Thailand has been the largest rice exporter for more than three decades except in 2012 and 2013, while the Philippines was the largest importer of rice in the world between 2003 and 2011 in cumulative terms, importing more rice in total (14.8 million tonnes) than any other country. Although agreements on agriculture at the World Trade Organization constrain to some level the policies of members states on individual commodities, the Philippines has been able to secure an exception to requirements that allow import access to the rice market. During 2008, it was still exempted from converting import quotas to tariffs, which are to be reduced over time. Instead, it continued to protect its domestic market from cheaper foreign rice by means of restricting the quantity of imports, and number of importers each year. The Philippines has not gone the further step to provide support to farmers although such means as a subsidized purchase program, despite continuing to protect its market. Unexpectedly, it was Thailand, the exporter, that provided support payments to farmers by such means (Table 1). This program did not breach Thailand s commitment as a World Trade Organization member for the most part, due to the fact that it was administered as a credit program The 2008 Rice Price Crisis and its Aftermath In 2008, rice prices almost trebled between January (USD376/t) and April (above USD900/t), culminating in an episode of food insecurity across rice-consuming countries, later known as the 2008 rice price crisis. Uncoordinated actions of key actors in the world rice market were to blame: India and Vietnam issued bans on rice exports in order to safeguard domestic supplies, while the Philippines went scrambling for rice in the world market as government stocks dropped to levels lower than national standards in March that year. It ended up
3 Fang: Voter-Politician Linkage & Rice Policies 507 Table 1 Comparison between key features of rice policies in the Philippines and Thailand ( ) National stockpile Domestic support in recent years Key difference The Philippines Largely composed of state imports and private imports virtually non-existent Government paddy procurement does exist, but only at very low levels (less than 5% of national production). Prices were uncompetitive and were raised only after the 2008 rice price crisis. Compared with Thailand, little regular, direct support was provided in the Philippines to farmers, even though they faced competition from cheap imports. Thailand Sourced from domestic procurement through paddy pledging program Government paddy-pledging prices set at market levels or above, in effect purchasing a significant proportion of national production (around 20%), except during , the pledging program was replaced by an income guarantee policy. securing supply from Vietnam through diplomatic means, but the transactions were exceptionally large in volume and were overpriced. This sent signals across the world to drive up prices and threatened food security in many countries (Slayton 2009). Although Thailand kept its rice exports open in 2008, the same price signals caused both farmers and millers to increase production (Nipon 2010). To protect farmers from eventually falling prices, the government launched later that year a de facto state purchase program, buying rice from farmers with prices significantly above market levels. The program, known officially as the paddy-pledging program, was suspended in 2009 because of a change of government but launched again in 2011 with even higher prices. The government held onto its huge stock and avoided selling its rice to exporting companies at a loss. Thailand lost its position as the world s largest rice exporter in 2012 as a result. If it were not India, which decided to withdraw its 4-year ban on rice exports, the market interventions of Thailand could have caused another crisis. The controversial decisions of the Philippines and Thailand resulted in a significant buildup of stock in the countries and drew concerns over rice circulation in the world market. These seemingly abrupt measures were not sudden policy changes but, in fact, were made possible by pre-existing policy trends, as discussed later Import Dependence in the Philippines The Philippines has been a rice-importing country for most of its history. Rice selfsufficiency has been the stated policy goal of the Philippines all along, as seen in the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) of 1997 and the Medium-term Philippine Development Plan for , but the country enjoyed self-sufficiency in rice only during the decade between 1977 and 1987, thanks to the Green Revolution. Former president Ferdinand Marcos put in place the buy-high, sell-low dual-price regime during the early 1970s, with the agency that is now known as the National Food Authority (NFA) procuring paddy from farmers at prices above the market levels, and then selling the rice to consumers below the prevailing retail price (Congress of the Philippines 2010, p. 2). Marcos also expanded public investments in agriculture by nearly sevenfold and increased the share of agriculture in total public spending from 6.2% to 9.5% (Bautista 1995). After the Philippines entered an economic crisis during the 1980s, however, state investment in agriculture stagnated (Balisacan & Cuthberston 2008). Increases in annual rice production lagged behind the growth in consumption, leading to the loss of selfsufficiency. An episode of rice shortage in 1995 prompted the NFA to start relying on
4 508 Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies September 2016 imports to maintain its year-round 14-day buffer stock, and less and less rice has been purchased from local farmers since. As a rice-importing country, the Philippines protected its domestic market from the free entry of cheaper imports through tariffs and a licencing system. But with NFA being exempted from tariffs, few private traders were interested in applying for licences, and NFA was virtually the sole importer and had control over how much rice to release to the market. The trade protection offered by the state has, however, done little to support the income of rice farmers in the Philippines in recent years. While the domestic rice price was almost double the world price during the 1990s, the difference between the two prices (known as the nominal rate of protection) has dropped to near zero levels between 2005 and 2008 (Intal et al. 2012). During the same years, traders and millers also took a consistently high marketing margin of more than 50% (compared with 35% in Thailand, Dawe et al. 2008). Farmers only took the remainder, which was typically less than half the wholesale price. National Food Authority procurement from domestic farmers also dwindled from its peak in the 1970s, when it managed to absorb 10% of domestic rice production and significantly influenced prices (Djurfeldt & Jirstrom 2005). On average, NFA purchased less than 5% of domestic rice production between 2001 and 2013, and less than 1% between 2005 and The low rate of purchase can be attributed to a credit-tied relationship between rice traders and farmers. As farmers often had difficulties in accessing formal credit from banks, rice traders conveniently fill in as informal providers of credit, charging interests as high as 10 20% per month. The credit-tied relationship helped traders secure rice supply during harvest but limited the bargaining power of farmers over prices. Ironically, the only time when farmers were able to benefit from government price support in recent years was during the 2008 rice price crisis. With world prices skyrocketing, and the government in need of rice, the NFA exceptionally increased the domestic paddy procurement price during the crisis and increased the annual volume procured from less than 100,000 t between 2005 and 2007 to more than 600,000 t in Procurement levels dropped again, however, in the following years. Still, the NFA imported three times more rice than the amount it purchased domestically in Not ready to sacrifice the welfare of rice consumers, NFA sold the rice at prices well below market levels and used it in various distribution or food subsidy programs. The NFA alone contributed more than 10% to the PHP251.5 billion public sector deficit in 2009 as a result (Congress of the Philippines 2010) Increasing Farmers Income in Thailand By comparison, Thailand offers a much more generous support program to rice farmers. Subsidies for rice farmers were offered through the paddy-pledging program, which became known internationally during Yingluck Shinawatra s election campaign in Thailand taxed its rice exports until 1986 but maintained a rather liberal rice trade policy since cancelling the taxes, with no significant subsidies nor protection in place until the early 2000s (Warr & Kohpaiboon 2007). Although the paddy-pledging program was put in place in the 1980s to let farmers benefit fromsoft loans when market prices were low, it did not include an element of price support. Farmers were to pledge their paddy with the government during harvest time when prices were low and obtain a loan equivalent to 80% of a certain target price in return. When prices returned to the targeted level, farmers could repay the loan with a 3% interest and redeem the paddy. But in cases when market prices were unsatisfactory, farmers may opt to keep the cash and not redeem the rice. The paddy-pledging program saw some fundamental changes in 2001 after Thaksin Shinawatra became Prime Minister. Instead of simply providing loans, its objective was changed to support prices and increase farmers income. Prior to Thaksin s rule, farmers could only borrow up to 95% of the target price from the program, but this was raised to 100% in 2001 and was even 20 30% higher than the market price starting
5 Fang: Voter-Politician Linkage & Rice Policies 509 in 2004 (Nipon 2010). With pledging prices being competitive with market levels, farmers seldom redeemed their paddy but in effect sold it to the government. The paddy pledged with the government was no more than 5% of total national production before 2000 but increased significantly to above 20% for most years between 2001 and 2006 (Shigetomi 2011). Thaksin was ousted in a coup in Apart from the time when Thailand was under the bureaucracy-led government from mid-2006 to 2007, rice policies from 2008 until yet another coup in 2014 were characterized by high levels of income subsidies. The paddypledging program was revived twice by pro- Thaksin political parties. The first time was in 2008, after the rice price crisis described earlier. The second time was when Thaksin s sister Yingluck took this policy to an extreme in order to win the 2011 election, offering price support at 50% above market levels, without limit on the volume each farmer could pledge with the program. Between these two episodes, the opposing Democrat party implemented a farmers income guarantee program targeted not only on rice during their 2-year rule, but this policy is outside the focus of this study. 3. Traditional Patronage in the Philippines Farmers Voices Muted 3.1. Patronage in Filipino History As explained earlier, the Philippines received exemptions from international trade agreements and continued to protect its rice market. However, the lack of a meaningful government procurement program to support farmer income requires further explanation, and the persisting patron client relations in rural localities serve to fill this gap. For much of Filipino history, both coercive powers and capital remained decentralized into the hands of rural elites. With the proliferation of trade during the 18th century, the rise of capital among merchants gave birth to a new rich, which established themselves based on the Spanish feudal model (Anderson 1998). Acting as moneylenders, they acquired land titles when peasant borrowers failed to return loans and entered sharecropping arrangements. The new landed elites served as providers of patronage to tenants while also controlling tax collection, law enforcement and the distribution of public works. Of all farmland in the Philippines, 33% remained under tenancy by 1971, with share tenants cultivating most of the rice areas (Hayami & Otsuka 1993). The Americans took over the Philippines in They superimposed their democratic model onto the Filipino system of local bosses, hoping that stability and selfsustenance would result from sharing power with landed elites (Hutchcroft & Rocamora 2003). This formalized their previously informal rule (Sidel 2004) and effectively limited electoral competition in the bicameral legislature to a small number of rival-landed elites (Anderson 1998). This cacique depended on political patronage and often corruption to win their office. While performing critical governing functions for the state, they also crowded out any possible growth of a professional bureaucracy and kept the state machinery underdeveloped. Independence in 1946 did not bring change to the social structure. The new republic essentially reconstructed the institutions of the American colonial era, with the election of a president in addition to the bicameral legislature, and bosses continuing to thrive in countless localities (Sidel 2004). Leftist movements challenged the cacique democracy, and the rising violence from insurgencies eventually provided the incumbent president Ferdinand Marcos with an excuse to declare Martial Law in 1972, taking the country into dictatorial rule. Ironically, Marcos attempted land reform as an effort to disarm potential opponents (Kerkvliet 1974). His motivations were mainly political, and he only targeted landholders cultivating land with rice and corn. It resulted in redistribution of a mere 70,715 ha, representing no more than 1% of the total agricultural land (Bello et al. 2004). Marcos was much better known for his plundering of the state, which led to an economic crisis and an average of 0.5% annual gross domestic product growth between 1980 and He was accused of
6 510 Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies September 2016 fraud in snap elections held in February 1986, and his rule was ended through the People Power Revolution that year Landed Elite Politics after People Power Despite Corazon Aquino s rise to power with the revolution, the landed elite class reconsolidated as an opposition bloc before she managed to impose a radical land reform. To stabilize her rule, she conceded to the interests of her own landholding class and left the decisions on the implementation of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program to the congress (Bello et al. 2004). The slow and gradual implementation of land reform made landlessness a persistent situation. The political system constructed through the new constitution in 1987 also restored the power of traditional-landed elites. These families recaptured the bicameral legislature as a solid visible national oligarchy by winning 130 of the 200 seats in the House of Representatives (HoR) in the 1987 election (Anderson 1998, p. 201). Known as trapos for short, traditional politicians seldom won on the basis of policy commitments. Parties remained weak in terms of policy cohesion, and personality and patronage were more important in the run-up to elections (Hutchcroft & Rocamora 2003; Kasuya 2009). The supposed remedy to the dominance of trapos and the use of patronage was the new party-list system, which would determine 20% of the seats in the HoR. A qualified party or organization had to obtain 2% of the total votes to get one seat. Due to the intention to give a voice to marginalized groups, however, each group was entitled to only a maximum of three seats. This design has led only to a large number of fragmented groups that each captured a small number of seats in the HoR and has done little to increase the cohesion of policy platforms (Carlos et al. 2010) Patronage and Agricultural Development Scarce state funding for agriculture created the market for trapos to come in as sponsors of rural infrastructure through patronage, making use of pork barrel funds. The funds date back to the pre-marcos era but were reinstituted under President Fidel V. Ramos in 1995 as a means to lure rural elites to his side, thereby building a dominant party in the Congress (Putzel 1999). The funds include allocations from various sources, including the Public Works Act, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and discretionary funds from the president and departmental secretaries. To secure a sizeable sum to be used in projects of their choice, elected congresspersons had to maintain good relationships with the incumbent president and frequently switched parties as driven by the need to secure patronage resources. The pork barrel affected agricultural productivity in two ways. First, it resulted in inappropriate types of rural infrastructure being provided. The need of politicians to seek visibility led to the dominance of large and tangible projects, and less visible projects such as extension services were deprioritized. There were cases in which politicians offered to build a farm-to-market road, but the road ended up passing through the most densely populated areas for visibility instead of linking the farms and the markets (Lantican 2008). Second, significant proportions of funds meant for pork barrel projects were secretly diverted to other forms of patronage. These uses included casework, as named by Kasuya (2009), which constituted a plethora of activities like the attendance of funerals and weddings with an expected obligatory donation, referrals for employment, hospital accommodation and scholarships. The objective of casework was to help politicians secure votes by cultivating personal relationships with voters. Outright votebuying was also highly endemic in the Philippines, with candidates spending anywhere from PHP 500 to 3,000 per vote in an attempt to win an election, whether at the national or municipal level (Chua & Cruz 2004). The resources needed for casework and votebuying often came from the costs of pork barrel projects. Kick-backs from wellconnected contractors often went back to the pockets of some legislators. This can range between 10% and 40% of the total project cost
7 Fang: Voter-Politician Linkage & Rice Policies 511 according to informants in the field, while literature quoted a figure of 30% (Kasuya 2009). With various parties also taking bites off the pie, only an estimated 50% go down to the actual project, leading to rural infrastructure and post-harvest facilities of poor quality and durability. The harm of such corruption on agricultural development is enormous, when captures are aggregated municipality by municipality and election after election, leading eventually to dwindling rice self-sufficiency and the dependence on imports. The widespread use of such patronage also meant that the poor cast their votes based on the need to return favours rather than on the policy platform of candidates. Such linkage indirectly muted the voice of poor farmers in policy making. The party-list system has done little to help the already-weak voices of Filipino farmers. In the 2010 election, 187 party-list groups registered to run. With each group limited to only three seats of the total of nearly 300, however, the groups are too fragmented to collectively vote in or vote out any bill under consideration (Carlos et al. 2010). The muted voice of farmers meant that NFA procurement from them remained at very low levels and uncompetitive prices. Instead, the NFA became more and more dependent on imports, which were a severe fiscal burden, as the rice was often sold off to consumers at a loss Mega Imports and Rent Seeking During the 2008 rice price crisis, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo obtained contact with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to secure a rice supply of 1.5 million tonnes per year between 2008 and This was followed with tenders of more than 600,000 t per batch, which were also considered mega and overpriced by international standards (Slayton 2009, p. 17). Civil society and academia pointed to the possibility of rent seeking in these imports by top-level Filipino government officials, in a manner somewhat similar to the aforementioned corruption arising from patronage. Food economist Peter Timmer brought up the possibility that Vinafood2, the Vietnamese state trading enterprise in charge of the mega rice deals, provided a share of its handsome profits to the Filipino officials (Charles 2011). Given the difference between the high price paid by the Philippines (above USD1,200 in April 2008), and the low local prices in Vietnam (below USD500), there was indeed a sizeable margin for sharing. Media reports in 2005 of Vinafood2 providing similar benefits to the Indonesian Bureau of Logistics (BULOG) which is the counterpart of the NFA (Intellasia 2007), as well as the likely involvement of Arroyo in other frauds such as the 728-million-Peso fertilizer scam (Congress of the Philippines 2006) also increase the likelihood of these allegations. The 2008 rice imports were deemed excessive, when a large stock equivalent to 70 days of national consumption was found soon to rot away in NFA warehouses 2 years later. An investigation of rice-importing procedures of the Arroyo administration also revealed the aforementioned overpricing. The newly inaugurated Benigno Aquino III administration later embarked on a reform of the NFA to correct its many problems while also committing to the achievement of rice self-sufficiency. The highest court in the Philippines also ruled the PDAF, one of the funds under the pork barrel system, to be unconstitutional following a number of scandals concerning misuse of funds in While the PDAF might end up being abolished, it is yet unknown whether this would eventually lead to the abolishment of all pork. 4. Mass Party Populism in Thailand Farmers Voice Matters 4.1. Until the Asian Financial Crisis Rural bossism was a phenomenon that was less deeply rooted in the political history of Thailand than that of the Philippines (Sidel 2004). Blessed with abundant land, the monarchy facilitated a norm of small independent farms in the 19th century by providing peasants with documents allowing exclusive land use rights while refusing legal support for landlords or merchant capitalists to impose control
8 512 Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies September 2016 on the new smallholders (Feeny 1988; Pasuk & Baker 2002). By 1937, landlords held only one quarter of the cultivated land in the central plain, 19% of land in the North, and a mere 2% of the land in the Northeast (Pasuk & Baker 2002). Although the power of landlords was placed under check, the capital remained the centre of political and economic power after Thailand became a constitutional monarchy in Politics became characterized by a vicious cycle of military coups, between which the bureaucracy-led governments bypassed the influence of elected members of the parliament or provincial councils (McCargo 2001; Pasuk & Baker 2009). Line ministries each participated in clientelistic networks, but these relations were largely urban. The resulting uneven development caused poverty to become much more concentrated in the rural areas. Income disparity between rural and urban areas set the stage for the rice policies of Thailand after Thaksin came to power. Rural patronage nonetheless once increased prior to that in the 1980s, when godfathers rose up to act as powerful intermediaries between voters and the state (Ufen 2012, p. 459). They competed for pork resources made available from the prime minister and also made use of other tactics such as votebuying, coercion and election fraud (Bowie 2008), much like the strategies used in the Philippines. The Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, however, saved Thailand from travelling the same road of patronage. With the crisis knocking two to three million people into unemployment (Pasuk & Baker 2009), rural poverty incidence climbed back to 22% in 1999 after reaching a low of 14% during the 1990s (Walker 2012). The widening income gap between rural and urban areas generated distrust in and calls to renew the system of godfather money politics. This culminated in the passing of a new constitution in 1997, introducing electoral rules that encouraged parties to appeal to the entire nation and develop stronger policy platforms. In the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, Thailand also saw the biggest upsurge in rural protest since the 1970s, with chief demands being agricultural price support, agrarian debt relief and land for the landless. This political mobilization was possible, thanks to the organizational infrastructure resulting from the influx of non-governmental organizations working in rural areas during the 1980s and 1990s. This was a remarkable change from before, when farmers have not been fully empowered to participate in the Thai political arena (Titipol 2004) TRT Party Platform and Rice Price Support In January 2001, Thaksin Shinawatra s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won by a near majority of 248 out of 500 seats in the first HoR election under the new constitution, and he himself became prime minister. Thaksin s policies were commonly known as having populist characteristics, with promises to help the common people while challenging the established elite, with a certain emphasis on the agriculture and rural sector (McCargo 2001; Thompson 2010). Thaksin appealed to rural voters using a strikingly new policy platform that included broadly targeted policies such as universal health care, farmer debt relief and other nationwide pro-poor programs (Selway 2011). These policies were carved out in part to answer to the social demands unleashed during the Asian Financial Crisis (Pasuk & Baker 2009). They also fit with the well-known rhetoric of Thaksinomics that Thailand s economy was vulnerable to the fluctuations in the global economy, and the need to stimulate domestic demand was imminent. This in turn would require cutting rural debts, lowering household expenses and increasing the disposable income of rural people in particular (Pasuk & Baker 2009). The price support characteristics of Thaksin s version of the paddy-pledging program thus fitted with this model of economic development. In addition to the principles of Thaksinomics, linkages between Thaksin with rural voters also provide a vivid explanation for the rice subsidies. The electoral rules introduced in the 1997 constitution favoured competition based on a party platform (Selway 2011). A first-past-the-post simple majority system with smaller constituencies was
9 Fang: Voter-Politician Linkage & Rice Policies 513 introduced to discourage multiple candidates of the same party from running against one another. Ideally, this would also discourage campaign tactics that were personalistic and ridden with patronage. Voting also became obligatory by law, and the expanded electorate made votebuying prohibitively expensive (Schaffer & Schedler 2006). A party-list system was also instituted to reduce the championing of local interest. While the Thai party-list system was similar to the Philippines in that 20% of the HoR seats were to be elected through proportional representation, there were also major differences. First, it does not limit the number of seats won by any party. Each list could win up to 100% of the relevant seats, as long as it is able to garner the necessary votes. Further, the prime minister and the cabinet were expected to come from the party list members of the parliament. These attributes of the system worked in bringing about stronger party platforms, while its counterpart in the Philippines only resulted in fragmentation. Given the strong incentives to compete through a party platform that appealed to the entire nation instead of relying on localized patronage, Thaksin made sure that the central government was the provider of all political goods to the rural poor. He even eliminated competition from local bosses by paying them a lucrative allowance for joining his TRT party (Ufen 2007). The resulting pattern of side payment distribution in Thailand since 2001 was therefore one that mobilized mass constituencies rather than local ones. In this form of linkage, political behaviour is still characterized by patterns of exchange, but with the role of landlords and local notables replaced by organized political parties. Thaksin swiftly implemented his policy platform within his first year of office, and the effect of its actualization cannot be dismissed upon comparison of the election results of 2001 and 2005 (Table 2). First, there was a notable increase in the proportion of seats won by TRT both in geographic constituencies (increasing from 50% to 78%) and the party-list (increasing from 48% to 67%). Second, the increase in seats won in the northeast between the two elections was particularly remarkable. TRT s ricepolicy can be inferred to have contributed to the increase, if we also consider the following facts: (i) subsidies were dramatically increased in 2004, with paddy being pledged prices 20 30% above market levels; (ii) the northeast had the least favourable physical conditions, but the highest incidence of poverty as well as (iii) the largest percentage (70%) of land farmed with rice (Leturque & Wiggins 2011); and even more importantly (iv) the northeast had the highest share of Thailand s rice production by weight. Evidently, the rice subsidies had a noticeable effect on election results, and it could be said that the use of a policy platform has largely replaced the need for traditional patronage or votebuying. It would be hard to say that Thaksin won his election without any votebuying, but it was believed that this Table 2 Thailand Incidence of poverty and share of rice harvested, 2004, compared with general election results by region, 2001 and 2005 Incidence of poverty Share of rice harvested Percentage of seats won by Thai Rak Thai Main season North 16.2% 22.4% 71% 93% Northeast 17.2% 56.6% 50% 93% South 7.8% 3.8% 2% 2% Centre 5.1% 17.2% 49% 82% Bangkok 1.6% 78% 86% All geographic constituencies n/a n/a 50% 78% Party-list n/a n/a 48% 67% Overall 11.3% 100% 50% 75% Note: n/a, not applicable.
10 514 Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies September 2016 mainly pertained to areas such as the south, where he could not rely on his popularity (Pasuk & Baker 2009) After Thaksin Rice farmers remained a significant stakeholder group after the ousting of Thaksin, with everyone out seven people in Thailand s population of 63.5 million in 2009 being identified as a grower of rice (Alavi et al. 2012). Given the large number of rice farmers, and previous records showing the effectiveness of rice subsidies, it can be explained why Thaksin s sister Yingluck would use a beefed-up version of this policy in order to win the 2011 election. The even-higher rice price subsidies obtained Yingluck s Pheu Thai party an electoral victory with a simple majority (265 out of 500 seats) in the HoR. The Yingluck government purchased huge, expensive rice stocks but waited for prices to rise before selling, so as to avoid major losses. The decision of India to re-enter the world market in 2012, however, kept prices from rising, and mountains of rice ended up accumulating in the public warehouses of Thailand. Thailand lost to India its position as the top exporter and was also surpassed by Vietnam, ending up as only the third largest exporter that year. The program costs the government about THB376 billion (USD12.5 billion) for the year starting October 2011, which was equivalent to 3.4% of gross domestic product. With the rice stock being sold at a loss, about one-third of this cost was never recovered (World Bank 2012). The Yingluck government later announced that it could not pay farmers the prices promised prior to the election. While this prompted farmers to take the issue to the streets, the deterioration in fiscal health also caused the urban middle class in Bangkok to engage in protests. Eventually, the Yingluck government fell into governance failure and was ousted in a coup in Conclusion In the absence of major constraints resulting from international trade agreements, varying patterns of linkage between politicians and rural voters turned out to be important determinants behind the different rice policies in the Philippines and Thailand. Indirectly, these linkages also led to some of the controversial decisions made by the governments, namely, the mega imports of the Philippines and the withholding of stocks in Thailand, which were seen to be threatening global food security. The stronger dominance of rural elites in the Philippines led to the continued use of traditional patronage by politicians as their way to link with rural voters, in turn muting the voice of farmers in policy debates. This displaced the need to compete through policies that improve incomes of the rural poor, including government purchase of rice at subsidized prices or other direct payments. The patronage also brought with it rampant corruption of funds meant for agricultural development and led to dwindling rice productivity and the government s dependence and heavy expenditure on imports. By contrast, the new electoral rules in Thailand introduced through the 1997 Constitution weakened the use of traditional patronage and increased the importance of policy platforms. The parliamentary system, together with new electoral rules such as the party-list, made it advantageous for parties to compete through policy platforms. The rice subsidies in question were part of such a pro-poor platform, which gained the favour of farmers and provided a way for Thaksin and his successors to win elections. In both countries, rice policies and political situations from an earlier period provide counterfactuals to support this analysis. In the Philippines, political power was much more centralized during the 1970s and 1980s, when Marcos ruled the country and suppressed rural patrons. Under this centralized structure, the state instituted a buy-high, sell-low dualprice regime that provided support to rice farmers. By contrast, the situation in Thailand during the 1980s and 1990s was more decentralized. The Constitution did not favour party platforms, and rural patronage was more rampant. Rice price support for farmers was
11 Fang: Voter-Politician Linkage & Rice Policies 515 much lower or non-existent, compared with the years after Thaksin came to power. The said patronage in the Philippines or the excessively high levels of rice subsidies seen recently in Thailand were formulated mainly as a strategy to draw votes from the rural electorate. As long as politicians rely on these strategies, they will have little incentive to eliminate any income disparity that affected rural areas. Clearly, the policy decisions taken by the two countries in this study lacked financial sustainability and were not long-term solutions to income disparity nor food productivity problems. Although electoral rules can indeed change the relative importance of the policy platform in political competition, they do not automatically lead to the best policies or even good governance. Politicians in the Philippines or Thailand, or other countries ridden with similar disparity problems, need to think beyond the garnering of votes and deliver policies that can bring about sustainable growth in smallholder farmer productivity and at the same time drive towards a more equitable society. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT The author acknowledges The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) of the Japanese government for funding his studies at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). He also thanks Prof. Keiichi Tsunekawa, Prof. Yonosuke Hara and Prof. Takashi Shiraishi for reviewing his PhD dissertation, on which this work was based. July References Alavi HR, Htenas RKA, Shepherd AW, Clarete R (2012) Trusting Trade and the Private Sector for Food Security in Southeast Asia. The World Bank, Washington DC. Anderson B (1998) The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia, and the World. Verso, London and New York. Balisacan AM, Cuthberston S (2008) Philippines policy linkages scoping study final report. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. Bautista RM (1995) Rapid agricultural growth is not enough: the Philippines In: Mellor JW (ed) Agriculture on the Road to Industrialization. Johns Hopkins University Press, Balitmore. Bello W, Docena H, de Guzman M, Malig M (2004) The Anti-development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines. Zed Books, London. Bowie KA (2008) Vote buying and village outrage in an election in northern Thailand: recent legal reforms in historical context. Journal of Asian Studies 67, Carlos CR, Lalata D, Despi D, Carlos P (2010) Democratic Deficits in the Philippines: What is to be Done? Center for Political and Democratic. Reform, Quezon City. Charles D (2011) How fear drove world rice markets insane. US National Public Radio. Accessed 1 April Chua YT, Cruz BB (2004) Pork is a political, not a developmental, tool. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Available online html. Congress of the Philippines (2006) Senate Committee Report 54, Submitted by the Committees on Agriculture and Food and Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon), The Thirteenth Congress of the Republic of the Philippines. Congress of the Philippines (2010) Subsidizing the National Food Authority: is it a good policy? Senate Economic Office Policy Brief Dawe DC, Moya PF, Casiwan CB, Cabling JM (2008) Rice marketing systems in the Philippines and Thailand: do large numbers of competitive traders ensure good performance? Food Policy 33, Djurfeldt G, Jirstrom M (2005) The puzzle of the policy shift the early green revolution in India, Indonesia and the Philippines. In: Djurfeldt G, Holmén H, Jirström M, Larsson
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