Da Daily Donkey
More often than not, ignorance about economics results in many believing that when two people or entities exchange goods and/or money, one party wins and the other party loses. Thus, if rich capitalists profit, then the poor and the weak suffer. That's one hell of a myth!
How many times have you paid something, say, Php115 for a Quarter Pounder Meal at McDonalds and after the service crew said, "Thank you," you responded, "Thank you"? A wealth of economics wisdom surounds the double thank-you moment. Why does it happen? Because you want the food more than the buck, and McDonalds wants the buck more than the meal. Both of you win.
Two people (or entities) trade because each wants what the other has more than what he already has. In their respective views, the things traded are unequal in value. Thus, this means each comes out ahead, having given up something one wants less for something one wants more. IT IS just not true that one gains and the other loses - because if that were the case, the loser would not have traded. As economists would say, "It's win-win - positive-sum." This experience happens everytime - each time in that double thank-you moment in a store, restaurant, gasoline station, etc.
It does not matter that one wishes the price of something to be lower. Everybody wants the price of everything to be lower (except the price of what one is selling, e.g., products, services, or labor). And the story does not change if one buys from someone in another city or another province. It does not change even if one buys from somebody in another country.
That is why I worry when, last night, I saw on television - GMA 7's Reporter's Notebook - and hear people say things to the effect of, "I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade". That quote I reference to the corrupt members of the Philippine Senate and Congress, recipient of today's "Da Daily Donkey" award. You know who you are! Stand up and be counted! Your failure to pass a bill seeking to considerably bring down the cost of medicines in the Philippines because of the persistent lack of a quorum during the last three session days of the 13th Congress is INEXCUSABLE!
MAHIYA NAMAN KAYO!
Medicine, whether generic or branded, is priced higher in our country compared to most other nations in Asia. Patients are helpless against the situation. One legislative measure, The Cheaper Medicines Bill, remains pending in Congress. Why? I have two words for you: Graft and Corruption. Rumor has it, and this rumor is a very persistent one, that several big pharma companies and associations are spending a fortune - a king's ransom - to derail the passage of the bill and are aligning themselves with some prospective candidates in the 2010 elections to accomplish their evil intentions!
Representatives and lawyers of the big pharmaceutical companies in the country were present during the sessions. One even had the nerve to pass a note to Congressman Teddy Boy Locsin, stating and demanding, "This is geting dangerous! You should act now to stop this! Can you do it?" The note also contained the contact information of the sender.
Outraged, Congressman Teddy Locsin approached the area of the gallery where the note supposedly came from. Seated in the area were representatives and lawyers of major phamarceutical companies and associations. Locsin told them to get out or he himself will personally see to it that they be removed from the session. Locsin and others remarked, "Iba yung usapang graft and corruption eh! Kabastusan na ito!" (Graft and corruption is one thing! But this is an absolute lack of respect for the Republic, the Philippine Congress and its members!)
The Pharmaceutical and HealthCare Assocation of the Philippines remains mum of the issue. Well, on TV, that is.
According to Inquirer.Net:
- The problem was not just with quorums, said House Representatives Janette Garin and Ferjenel Biron of Iloilo, two vocal proponents of the proposed Cheaper Medicines Act of 2007, or House Bill 6035. The two said that the senators, particularly Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, were against the House bill which they said would dismantle the supposed “drug cartel” in the country.
- They said Roxas had come up with a seemingly populist bill that actually protected the interests of the giant pharmaceutical companies. “If he wants to be President, he should pay the price,” Biron told a press conference.
- Roxas countered that the Senate “cannot be made a scapegoat for any failure to pass this bill because we have been simply waiting since Monday for the House version to be passed on third reading.” “Right now, the bill on affordable medicines is comatose and only immense political will emanating from the House of Representatives can bring it to life,” he said.
- “It’s not true that the quorum is the only problem, the Senate doesn’t want the House bill,” said Garin. The Senate earlier passed the Roxas-authored Senate Bill 2263, but the House preferred to come up with its own supposedly “stronger” version. Thus, HB 6035 which incorporated key provisions from HB 3830, an earlier bill that never got past the committee level. The bill needs to pass the House on third reading so it can be consolidated with the Senate version.
- But it failed to pass the bill on Monday for lack of quorum, and again on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Groups lobbying for the passage of HB 6035, including senior citizens in the gallery, were hoping that the lower chamber could still do the job Thursday, but the session is supposed to be for the launching of the House centennial celebrations.
- Garin described Roxas’ bill as “useless,” as it would cover only five percent of the drug market. An amendment to the patent law, the Roxas bill provides for the parallel importation by government of cheaper brands of medicines that are exorbitantly priced in the Philippines.
- In contrast, the House version would allow importation of these medicines by the private sector, forcing big pharmaceutical companies into an open-market competition, said Garin.
- A key provision of the bill requires equal display of drugs imported by the old players and those entering the country through parallel importation. By allowing parallel importation for both private and public sectors, the bill would cover 85 to 90 percent of the drug market, said Garin.
- Garin projects a price reduction of at least 60% if the House bill passes.
And a different take from ABS-CBN Interactive:
- Senator Mar Roxas on Saturday said he has refiled a bill in the Senate seeking to provide affordable medicines in the country.
- "This time around, I fervently hope we muster enough political will so as not to deprive our countrymen of more affordable quality medicines," Roxas said.
- The bill is being backed by international organizations, e.g., the World Health Organization and Oxfam as well as the Philippine Chamber of Pharmaceutical Industry.
"The present high cost of medicines is debilitating. It is an added burden to our people who are faced with enough challenges to meet the cost of living," the Liberal Party member said.
- Roxas's proposed amendments would also allow generic drug manufacturers to begin testing, production and registration on patented drugs or medicines even prior to the expiration of their patent so that generic versions can be made immediately available to the public once the patent expires.
- Roxas also said that the proposed measure will bar patent owners from extending patents on the basis of a "new use" for existing substances.
- "I am extremely disappointed that this was not passed into law during the 13th Congress. However, hope springs eternal and I am happy to say that this measure enjoys the full backing not only of my party mates in the Liberal Party, but even more legislators and stakeholders as well," Roxas said.
At this early stage, are the health and welfare of the Filipino people being fought on grounds of the elections in 2010? Whose views are right? Whose thoughts count? What is legit? What is not? What is fair? What isn't? Who is speaking the truth? Who is lying? Who is scheming? And who has the heart to go the distance and see to it that this bill becomes a law? Not because the media or the AnitoKid have shown a ton of interest in it, but because IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO!
"Fair trade" is protectionism disguised as retaliation against people, organizations, companies, and countries that may or may not practice protectionism, and IT IS a bad sign when politicians talk about or imply "fair" rather than "free" trade. More often than not, when they do, it always ends up in graft and corruption. We should practice free trade no matter what others do. And why? Because freedom is good in itself. In reality, there are no imports and exports concerns here. It is all about "What I make and what everyone else makes." Few people would want to live just on what they themselves could make. Once we choose trade over self-sufficiency, politicians would just be arguing about how big the free-trade zone pie should be. Since trade is always mutually beneficial, it is just logical that the bigger the free-trade zone the better. Thus, worldwide is best of all. And I kid you not!