Saturday, December 13, 2008

The World Bank and food security

A recent article in the Business Standard harshly criticizes World Bank policies for decreasing the food security of developing nations around the world. The article uses El Salvador as a case study of the World Bank's impact:

Inside and out, the rusted towers of El Salvador’s biggest grain silo show how the World Bank helped push developing countries into the global food crisis.

Inside, the silo, which once held thousands of tons of beans and cereals, is now empty. It was abandoned in 1991, after the bank told Salvadoran leaders to privatise grain storage, import staples such as corn and rice, and export crops including cocoa, coffee and palm oil.

Outside, where Rosa Maria Chavez’s food stand is propped against a tower wall, price increases for basic grains this year whittled business down to 16 customers a day from 80.

“It’s a monument to the mess we are in now,” says Chavez, 63.

About 40 million people joined the ranks of the undernourished this year, bringing the estimate of the world’s hungry to 963 million of its 6.8 billion people, the Rome-based United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said yesterday. The growth didn’t come just from natural causes. A manmade recipe for famine included corrupt governments and companies that profited on misery. Another ingredient: The World Bank’s free-market policies, which over almost three decades brought poor nations like El Salvador into global grain markets, where prices surged.

“The World Bank made one basic blunder, which is to think that markets would solve problems of such severe circumstances,” said Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon. “But history has shown you need to help people to get above the survival threshold before the markets can start functioning.”

Read complete article.

2 comments:

Larry said...

This article leaves out an important part of the story, one that is almost always (conveniently) forgotten. The US preached free trade, but continued subsidizing agrobusiness here. Of course small farmers were wiped out when they couldn't "compete" with multinational corporations that were getting our tax dollars to help them wipe out Latin American peasants. The same thing happens with cotton in Africa. And then, of course, the corporations fund political groups to stir up anger at the "lazy mexicans" who are forced to come to the U.S. because their liveliehood was wiped out.

"Free trade" has always worked for those thar don't hve to play by the rule they impose on everyone else.

El-Visitador said...

Tim,

This is absurd.

It's not as if people don't know that IRA didn't feed anyone except the incredibly corrupt bureaucracy that operated it.

To pretend that if IRA were around Rosa Maria Chavez would be selling to 80 customers/day is the epitome of ahistoricity.

Seriousness, please.