By U. Mahesh Prabhu
Do you think Islamic terrorism is the worst thing ever to be faced by mankind? If ‘Yes’ is your answer, perhaps you shall change your view point, and completely, after reading this.
Egypt’s authoritarian regime is currently facing a mounting political threat. Other countries in similar state are: Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Mozambique, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Indonesia. If not riots they are forced to face increase in public demonstration. Recently Jacques Edonard Alexis, Prime Minister of Republic of Haiti, a Caribbean nation, was kicked out of office foreseeing the hospitals filled with wounded following the riots. These riots, interestingly, are neither for the sake of religion nor for unswerving political rationale. It is all happening for the sake of food!
Globally food prices have risen nearly 40% since mid-2007. And the nations who import nearly all of its food are facing their worst crisis ever. The prices of wheat have jumped by over 120% which means the price of a loaf of bread has more than doubled in places where poor spend as much as 75% of their income just on food. It is needless to say that if such rise in prices go on, then its consequence on population in a large set of countries will be terrible.
The social theories of Karl Marx were long discarded as of being little value, even to revolutionaries. But he did warn that Capitalism had a tendency in to generate its own crisis. I may sound as a communist, but I am not.
Here is the reason why I am recalling the remark of Karl Marx on Capitalism: The rapid industrialization of China and India over the past two decades – and the resultant growth of a new middle class, that which is fast approaching the size of Americas – has driven demand for oil towards the limits of global supply capacity. This has pushed the oil prices to levels five times what they were in 1990s, which has also raised pressure on food prices by driving up agricultural costs and by promoting the substitution of the bio fuel crops for edible ones on scarce farmland, all affecting the production of food crops intensely – leading to the growth of food prices.
Moreover the middle class in India are eating a lot better than their earlier generations – particularly meat. Globally the consumption of beef is on the rise. As per some estimate, producing a single calorie of beef, require eight or more calories of grain feed, and due to expanded meat consumption there is a multiplier effect on demand for grains – leading to the growth of food prices. It is not wrong to say that, if at all, we turn to vegetarianism we shall perhaps contribute something to the reduction in prices of food items.
Recently, while speaking at the Finance Ministers meeting, the World Bank President Robert Zoellick stated ‘While many are worrying about filling their gas tanks many others around the world are struggling to fill their stomachs and it is getting more and more difficult every day.’ Not a word of his is wrong and the heat has begun to be felt the world over. In US too the presidential candidates have began paying increased attention on the cost of food prices, often citing it on the stump!
The blame on the rise of food prices is also being put upon the ethanol, the bio fuel. The basic argument here is that: because ethanol comes from corn, the push to replace some traditional fuels with ethanol has created a new demand for the corn that which has thrown up food prices. However some environmental groups have already rejected the said argument.
United Nations has announced a $10 million grants from United States for Republic of Haiti to subsidize the fuel prices. But how much can money play its role? It can seldom satisfy your appetite.
Terrorism what we face today would be of a miniature size to what we might have to foresee in the near future, when there will not be enough of food. Let us not forget the fact that hunger has historically been an instigator of revolutions and civil wars. For a mass outpouring of rage spurred by hunger to translate into a credible challenge to an established order requires an organized political leadership ready to harness that anger against the state. It may not be all that surprising, then, that Haiti has been one of the major flashpoints of the new wave of hunger-generated political crises; the outpouring of rage there has been channeled into preexisting furrows of political discontent. And that’s why there may be greater reason for concern in Egypt, where the bread crisis comes on top of a mounting challenge to the regime’s legitimacy by a range of opposition groups.
Just a thought: Government intervention on behalf of the poor — out of fashion during globalization’s roaring ’90s and the current decade — may be about to make a comeback.
Meanwhile, I am yet to understand why hasn’t Indian media failed to carry this news forth their readers/viewers?