An Emerging Agricultural Problem in High-Performing Asian Economies
Policies to tax farmers in low-income countries and policies to subsidize them in high-income countries have been identified as a major source of the disequilibrium of world agriculture. Recently, as many high-performing economies in Asia advanced from the low-income to the middle-income stage through successful industrialization, they are confronted with the problem of a widening income gap between farm and non-farm workers corresponding to rapid shifts in comparative advantage from agriculture to manufacturing. In order to prevent this disparity from culminating in serious social and political instability, policies have been reoriented toward supporting the income of farmers. At the same time, governments in middle-income countries must continue to secure low-cost food to the urban poor who are still large in number. The need to achieve the two conflicting goals under the still weak fiscal capacity of governments tends to make agricultural policies in the middle-income stage tinkering and ineffective. Greater research inputs in this area are called for in order to prevent the growth momentum of high-performing economies in Asia from being disrupted by political crises, as illustrated by the bent of Japan toward militarism during the period between the two World Wars.
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