[EDITORIALS]Appeasing rice farmers

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[EDITORIALS]Appeasing rice farmers

The administration and the governing Uri Party have agreed to bring before the National Assembly in September the rice deal that was approved by the World Trade Organization in April. They have also come up with a series of measures to aid farmers in the coming era of the open rice market. Sixteen of the 20 aid measures proposed by farmers themselves have been adopted by the government.
These include an increase in financial aid to rice farming families, and in government contributions to the farmers’ trust guarantee funds. With the exception of some ideas that would have violated WTO regulations, the government has heeded the farmers’ requests.
Given that bringing the WTO agreement before the National Assembly could not be delayed any longer, the government and the Uri Party took the stance that they were open to all reasonable ideas from the farmers.
The measures announced yesterday were considered the government’s way of preparing for the aftermath should the Assembly ratify the agreement; this proves they were designed to minimize farmers’ opposition to ratification. The government had previously introduced financial aid plans for farmers, but added more benefits after dissenting voices grew louder.
We understand the anxiety of farmers as they face an open rice market. But that possibility has been with us for a decade, and the 10-year delay in adopting a flat-tariff system, as included in the WTO deal, actually reflects the farmers’ demands. Farmers should therefore understand that outright resistance to ratification will not solve the problem.
The fact that the latest series of supportive measures were chosen through discussion with farmers is an encouraging first step toward resolving the issues surrounding the opening of the market. On the other hand, the fact that these plans were created for the sole purpose of appeasing the farmers sets a bad precedent, and sends the wrong message: that the government may eventually give in to persistent demands by its citizens. The government may not be able to stop other interest groups and their demands with the same approach.
As for the farmers, they should now be making plans for the 10 years that they have before the flat-tariff system comes into effect, instead of simply asking the government for help.
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