Reaping what we sow

April 15, 2008 at 9:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Raj Patel writes on how the policies of free market fundamentalists like World Bank chief Robert Zoellick have contributed to the global food crisis:

His mission was to accelerate two decades of trade liberalisation in key strategic commodities for the United States, among them agriculture. Practically, this meant the removal of developing countries’ ability to stockpile grain (food mountains interfere with the market), to create tariff barriers (ditto), and to support farmers (they ought to be able to compete on their own). This Zoellick did often, and enthusiastically.

Without agricultural support policies, though, there’s no buffer between the price shocks and the bellies of the poorest people on earth. No option to support sustainable smaller-scale farmers, because they’ve been driven off their land by cheap EU and US imports. No option to dip into grain reserves because they’ve been sold off to service debt. No way of increasing the income of the poorest, because social programmes have been cut to the bone.

The reason that today’s price increases hurt the poor so much is that all protection from price shocks has been flayed away, by organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and the World Bank.

So the crisis is caused, in part, by excessive liberalisation, and what’s the solution Zoellick and his kind offer? More liberalisation! Well, it’s one way to tackle obesity, at least.

Photo by Flickr user Grace Fell (Creative Commons)

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