Posts Tagged ‘financial crisis’

One in six of world are going hungry

June 22, 2009
Morning Star Online, Sunday 21 June 2009

THE UN warned at the weekend that the global financial meltdown has pushed the ranks of the world’s hungry to a record 1 billion.

UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) officials reported that, because of war, drought, political instability, high food prices and poverty, hunger now affects 1.02 billion – up 11 per cent from last year’s 915 million.

The financial meltdown has compounded the crisis in what FAO director-general Jacques Diouf called a “devastating combination for the world’s most vulnerable.”

Compared with last year, there are 100 million more people who are hungry, meaning they consume fewer than 1,800 calories a day, the agency said.

“No part of the world is immune,” Mr Diouf said, emphasising that “all world regions have been affected by the rise of food insecurity.”

The crisis is a humanitarian one but it is also a political issue.

Officials presenting the new estimates in Rome sought to stress the link between hunger and instability, noting that soaring prices for staples such as rice triggered riots in the developing world last year.

Josette Sheeran of the World Food Programme, another UN food agency, said hungry people had rioted in at least 30 countries last year. Most notably, soaring food prices led to deadly riots in Haiti and the overthrow of the prime minister.

“A hungry world is a dangerous world,” Ms Sheeran said. “Without food, people have only three options – they riot, they emigrate or they die. None of these are acceptable options.”

Even though prices have retreated from their mid-2008 highs, they are still “stubbornly high” in some domestic markets, according to the FAO.

On average, food prices were 24 percent higher in real terms at the end of 2008 compared to 2006, it said.

“Malnutrition kills through the fact that it weakens the immune system of a child,” said Andrei Engstrand-Neacsu, a Kenya-based spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in East Africa. Some 22 million of the 1 billion hungry people counted by the United Nations are in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, he said.

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Number of Chronically Hungry Tops 1 Billion

March 28, 2009

by Javier Blas | Financial Times, March 27, 2009

LONDON – The number of chronically hungry people has surpassed the 1bn mark for the first time as the economic crisis compounds the impact of high food prices, the United Nations’ top agriculture official has warned.

[A boy displays a placard during a feeding program inside a Catholic church in Manila March 27, 2009. Child advocates group, Akap-Bata Philippines (Hug a Child), in a statement said on Friday, disapproves the result of a recent survey released last Monday by Social Weather Stations (SWS), an independent pollster, stating that hunger situation in the country has eased from 23.7 percent to 15.5 percent from December 2008 till March 2009. Akap-Bata Philippines said that the outcome of the study is absurd especially in this time of deep domestic crisis. The placard reads "Social services not war; Food not bullets". (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)]A boy displays a placard during a feeding program inside a Catholic church in Manila March 27, 2009. Child advocates group, Akap-Bata Philippines (Hug a Child), in a statement said on Friday, disapproves the result of a recent survey released last Monday by Social Weather Stations (SWS), an independent pollster, stating that hunger situation in the country has eased from 23.7 percent to 15.5 percent from December 2008 till March 2009. Akap-Bata Philippines said that the outcome of the study is absurd especially in this time of deep domestic crisis. The placard reads “Social services not war; Food not bullets”. (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco)

In an interview with the Financial Times, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, warned that the increasing numbers of undernourished people could trigger political instability in developing countries.”The issue of world food security is an issue of peace and national security,” he said, urging world leaders who are discussing ways to resolve the economic crisis not to forget that last year more than 30 countries suffered food riots.

The Rome-based organisation estimated last year that about 960m people were chronically hungry in 2008. Mr Diouf said that had since risen and “unfortunately, we are already quoting a number of 1bn people on average for this year”.

Before the food crisis started in 2007, there were less than 850m chronically hungry people in the world, a level that has been roughly constant since the early 1990s owing to the global fight against poverty and countries such as China lifting their economic growth.

Mr Diouf’s assessment signals that the food and economic crisis have reversed the past quarter-century’s slow but constant decline in the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the developing world’s population.

The percentage fell from 20 per cent in 1990-92 to a low of just below 16 per cent in the 2003-05 period. But with 1bn people chronically hungry now, the percentage has risen to almost 18 per cent.

As a consequence, the FAO’s director-general proposed ditching the UN’s Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of the world’s undernourished by 2015 and replacing it with a target of “eradicating hunger by 2025”. He said to meet that aim, the world should learn from the mistakes of the 1990s, when investment in agriculture fell sharply, paving the way for the surge in food prices of the past two and a half years.

Mr Diouf is pressing world leaders for a summit in Rome in November to tackle the roots of food insecurity, rather than to continue reacting to every crisis with ad hoc measures. “The food crisis is not over,” he said, warning that although international benchmark prices for major agricultural commodities such as wheat, corn, rice and soyabean had fallen from last year’s peak, they remained almost 30 per cent above the 2005 level. He added that domestic prices in developing countries had not tracked the drop in international prices as their crops had been disappointing.

Now, he said, “the financial crisis is worsening the situation by increasing unemployment, limiting the credit for trading [agricultural commodities] and lowering remittances, which in poor countries were used to purchase food”.

“Combining all the elements we are in a very unstable situation,” he added.

At the proposed summit, Mr Diouf said that world leaders should commit to investing in agriculture, particularly in the developing world, as the rise in the world’s population from today’s 6.5bn people to 9bn by 2050 will mean the world needs to double its current food output.

He added that leaders also should agree to revive the FAO’s Committee on World Food Security, elevating it to ministerial level to “allow policy decisions [to] be made”.

Mr Diouf said that several heads of state and governments already back its idea of a summit in November to tackle the food problem. Previous summits, however, have yielded few policy results.

Fidel Castro: The November 4 elections

November 4, 2008

Reflections of Fidel | Granma, Nov 4, 2008

TOMORROW will be a very important day. World opinion will be following what happens with the elections in the United States. It is the most powerful nation on the planet. With less than five percent of the world’s population, it annually sucks up enormous quantities of oil and gas, minerals, raw materials, consumer goods and sophisticated products from other countries; many of these, especially fuel and products that are mined, are not renewable.

It is the largest producer and exporter of weapons. The military industrial complex also has an insatiable market within the same country. Its air and naval forces are concentrated on dozens of military bases in other countries. The strategic missiles of the United States, which carry nuclear warheads, can reach any point in the world with total precision.

Many of the most intelligent minds in the world are plucked out of their native countries and placed at the service of this system. It is a parasitical and rapacious empire.

As everybody knows, the black population that was brought into the United States through slavery for centuries is victim of intense racial discrimination.

Obama, the Democratic candidate, is part African, and the color black and other physical traits of that race predominate in him. He was able to study at an institution of higher learning from which he graduated with brilliant grades. He is no doubt more intelligent, educated and level-headed than his Republican rival.

I am analyzing tomorrow’s elections as the world is experiencing a serious financial crisis, the worst since the 1930s, among many others that have seriously affected the economies of many countries for more than three-quarters of a century.

The international media, analysts and political commentators are spending some of their time on the issue. Obama is considered as the best political orator in the United States in recent decades. His compatriot Toni Morrison, winner of the Nobel Literature Prize in 1993 —the first of her ethnicity born in the United States to win that award and an excellent writer — describes him as the future president and poet of that nation.

I have observed the struggle between the two rivals. The black candidate, who surprised everyone so much when he won the nomination against strong adversaries, has articulated his ideas well, and strikes with them over and over in the minds of voters. He does not hesitate to affirm that above all, more than Republicans and Democrats, they are the people of the United States, citizens that he describes as the most productive in the world; that he will cut taxes for the middle class, in which he includes almost everybody; he will eliminate them for the poorest and raise them for the richest. Income will not be allocated to saving banks.

He reiterates over and over that the ruinous spending on Bush’s war in Iraq should not be paid for by U.S. taxpayers. He would put an end to that and bring back the U.S. soldiers. Perhaps he took into account the fact that that country had nothing to do with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It has cost the blood of thousands of U.S. soldiers, dead or injured in combat, and more than one million lives in that Muslim nation. It was a war of conquest imposed by the empire in its search for oil.

Given the financial crisis that has broken out and its consequences, U.S. citizens are more concerned at this time about the economy than the war in Iraq. They are tormented by their worries over jobs; the security of their savings deposited in banks; their retirements funds; the fear of losing the purchasing power of their money and the homes in which they live with their families. They wish for the security of receiving, in any circumstances, adequate medical services, and the guarantee of their children’s right to higher education.

Obama is defiant; I think that he has run and will run increasing risks in the country in which an extremist can legally acquire a sophisticated modern weapon on any street corner, just like in the early 18th century in the West of the United States. He supports his system and will base himself on it. Concerns over the world’s pressing problems really do not occupy an important place in Obama’s mind, and even less so in the mind of the candidate who, as a war pilot, dropped dozens of tons of bombs on the city of Hanoi, more than 15,000 kilometers from Washington, without any remorse in his conscience.

Last Thursday the 30th, when I wrote to Lula, along with what I described in my reflections of October 31, I literally said to him in my letter, “Racism and discrimination have existed in U.S. society since it was born more than two centuries ago. Blacks and Latin Americans have always been discriminated against there. Its citizens were educated in consumerism. Humanity is objectively threatened by its weapons of mass destruction.

“The people of the United States are more concerned about the economy than the war in Iraq. McCain is old, bellicose, uncultured, not very intelligent and not in good health.”

Finally, I added, “If my estimates should be erroneous, all kinds of racism prevail and the Republican candidate obtains the presidency, the danger of war would grow and the opportunities of the peoples to advance would be reduced. Despite everything, we must fight and raise awareness about this, no matter who wins these elections.”

When this opinion of mine is published tomorrow, nobody will have any time to say that I wrote something that could be utilized by one of the candidates for their campaign. I had to be, and have been, neutral in the electoral battle. It is not “interference in the internal affairs of the United States,” as the State Department would say, with all that respect it has for the sovereignty of other countries.


Fidel Castro Ruz

November 3, 2008

Empire and White Supremacy

October 22, 2008

The End of American Exceptionalism?

By COREY D.B. WALKER| Counterpunch, October 21, 2008

Now, when I say question the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

So tell me why, can’t you understand
That there ain’t no such thing as a superman

Gil Scott-Heron

What happens to a nation once its most privileged symbols have been thoroughly discredited?  Where does a country turn to begin again?

After eight years of the Bush-Cheney regime, the United States confronts these questions in light of a deep and profound crisis of legitimacy. The current crisis is intimately shaped by the demands of 21st century American imperialism and is reflected in the (un)spoken language of white supremacy.

The financial crisis engulfing the global capitalist system has exposed the hollow core of the American Dream.  As thousands of individuals and families have their homes go into foreclosure, the symbolic center of the American Dream – the home – has turned into an economic nightmare from which no one can awaken.

The reckless financialization of global capitalism which accelerated over the course of the last decade has not only discredited free market fundamentalism, but has also severely compromised the economic and political standing of America’s unique brand of consumer capitalism.  The ideology of an infinite American prosperity is no longer tenable as capitalism unravels and more and more Americans face desperate economic times with equally desperate choices.

The trends that progressives have for years been highlighting – the consolidation of wealth among a coterie of the elite, the record gap between rich and poor, the downward decline of wages, and the ever increasing level of poverty – are now coming to the forefront of public conversation.

And in so doing, calling into question the foundational assumptions of American superiority.

While the veiled and coded language of American foreign policy has been deciphered and well understood by those on the receiving end of America’s imperial promises, the rogue and cynical exploits by the recent administration has taken the mask off of the imperialistic machinations of American power.  Average citizens have been forced to face the wide gulf between the rhetoric of politicians and the military actions pursued in the name of the American people.

As if the crisis of capitalism and the overreach of imperial America were not enough, Americans are now in the midst of a hotly contested presidential election dominated by the age old American pastime of the politics of race.  While racial politics have always been a prized weapon in the arsenal of both political parties, what makes the 2008 incarnation of this political ritual unique is that the appeals to white supremacy – not the amorphous language of “race” to which mainstream media commentators refer – while recognized and justly denounced in its most extreme expression, still resonates within the political landscape precisely because of the crisis of capitalism and the military exploits of the American Empire.

In times of economic crisis and national malaise, the old political standby of subtle and not so subtle appeals to white supremacy becomes logical.  Why?  Because so much of what constitutes the American nationalist imaginary joins all that is felt to be familiar, normal, secure, and safe with the attributes, disposition, and outlook of the quintessential white person.  And in moments of national anxiety and economic insecurity politicians must reassure the American people that all is right (and white) with America.

Thus, it should not come as a surprise that there has been a lack of critical commentary on the white supremacist dimensions lurking just beneath the surface of what is taken to be a legitimate political appeal to the middle class as represented in the language and image of “Joe Six-Pack” and “Joe the Plumber.”  So as the story goes, the dreaded “outsiders” of the White Republic are produced and reproduced – immigrants, terrorists, socialists, muslims, black nationalists, and the list goes on – in an effort to make sure that all that is solid for the United States of America does not melt into air.

On November 5, 2008, Americans will wake up to a new day.  And as with all new days there will be work left over from the previous day to do.  But for the United States of America, the work that is left over is from the beginning and has steadily increased over the course of centuries.

And, once again, we will begin the long arduous process of making a nation.  Perhaps, just perhaps, we will eschew the short sighted vision of power and might and just try to do what is just and right, both in America and throughout the world.

Corey D. B. Walker is an assistant professor of Africana studies at Brown University and the author of A Noble Fight:  African American Freemasons and the Struggle for Democracy in America.


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