Thursday, November 4, 2010

Beans 2: Moving at the speed of bureaucracy

You will recall that on October 5, the Executive branch of the Honduran government declared an emergency because of the high domestic price of beans, a staple of the Honduran diet. The high prices were supposedly due to the scarcity of beans, allegedly caused by environmental conditions in Honduras. That emergency decree authorized the government, through the Instituto Hondureño de Mercadeo Agrícola (IHMA), to purchase up to 10 million lempiras worth of beans, store them, and use them to supply the local markets.

On October 21, Vice Minister of Agriculture, Juan Angel Artica, announced the 10 million lempiras had been spent, implying the supply of beans had been secured.

It never happened.

First came the investigations that found some distributors were deliberately withholding beans from the market to drive up prices. It also came to light that there were fair quantities of beans still to be bought and brought to market in places like Olancho, though insufficient to supply the entire nation for more than 20 days. IHMA itself found it still had some beans. Still, beans kept appearing, both in the BANASUPRO stores run by the government, and in the markets. Indeed, prices dropped for a bit. though they are still quite high, around 100 lempiras for 5 pounds, or 20 lempiras a pound. BANASUPRO maintains its price at 65 lempiras for 5 pounds, but limits purchases to 5 lbs. a day.

Now, with the new harvest of beans only 7 or so days away, it has come to light that the Finance Minister, William Chong Wong, didn't tranfer the 10 million lempiras to IHMA for it to purchase any beans.

Why not, you ask?

The Council of Ministers authorized the transfer on October 5 from the funds on loan from the Banco Social de Venezuela. These funds are sitting in an account in BANADESA, the national agricultural development bank.

In the Council of Ministers' meeting yesterday, William Chong Wong said that he had not authorized the transfer of government funds because IHMA has a 14 million lempira debt with BANADESA.

Huh? How is IHMA's debt to BANADESA an excuse for not carrying out an emergency order to address a government declared crisis? It is a government declared emergency, after all, and the transfer was properly authorized. BANADESA, at the time, even offered to take IHMA further into debt, 70 million lempiras further, to fund the purchase back when the emergency decree was issued.

Emergencies don't move at the speed of William Chong Wong's bureaucracy, they need real responses in real time.

Thirty days after it recognized the problem, the Honduran government still lacks a creditable response to the bean crisis. There is no accountability.

Its the Honduran people who continue to be hurt.


boz said...

Not that it makes the situation any better, but Nicaragua and El Salvador are both facing bureaucratic difficulties in fighting the rise in bean prices, in some ways similar and in others different. President Ortega's comment than Nicaraguans should simply learn to eat different types of beans was mocked widely in the media here. The fact that Nicaraguan beans were being exported to El Salvador and sold for cheaper than they are in Nicaragua while a few areas here saw shortages was also a particularly bad bureaucratic snafu for the govt.

RNS said...

The bean supply is reduced in much of Central America, with Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua particulary hard hit, in part because of the weather, in part because of a preference for a particular type of bean.

It was suggested in Honduras, by the government, that they learn to eat black beans, and to that end the government imported a supply from Costa Rica to offer in the BANASUPRO stores. Not many takers; reportedly they're too tough and chewy and take more hours of cooking than the preferred red/rose colored beans.