Bio-fuels, Speculation, Land Grabs = Food Crisis

Triple Crisis blogger Timothy A. Wise and guest blogger Sophia Murphy were recently interviewed by the Real News Network on why, despite important policy reforms, the countries that dominate international agricultural markets leave the world at risk of another food crisis. The interview is based on their new report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007″. Read the executive summary here. Also read a blog post by the authors, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Global leaders fail to make crucial reforms.”

January 19, 2012 | Posted in: Videos | Comments Closed

Resolving the Food Crisis: Global leaders fail to make crucial reforms

Timothy A. Wise and Sophia Murphy, guest blogger

The spikes in global food prices in 2007-8 served as a wake-up call to the global community on the inadequacies of our global food system.  Commodity prices doubled, the estimated number of hungry people topped one billion, and food riots spread through the developing world. A second price spike in 2010-11, which drove the global food import bill for 2011 to an estimated $1.3 trillion, showed that while global leaders may now be alert to the problems, our agricultural systems remain deeply flawed.

Various inter-governmental institutions responded with alacrity to the food price alarms. But the most powerful governments remain resistant to reform. In the final two months of last year alone, the G20, the WTO, and the Durban Climate Summit all turned big opportunities for action into small communiqués of little import.

In our new report, “Resolving the Food Crisis: Assessing Global Policy Reforms Since 2007,” we find that the recent crisis has been a catalyst for important policy reforms, but governments have yet to address its underlying causes. By avoiding deeper structural reforms, the countries that dominate international agricultural markets leave the world at risk of another devastating food crisis.

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How Austerity Is Killing Europe

Jeff Madrick

On the last day of 2011, a headline in The Wall Street Journal read: “Spain Misses Deficit Target, Sets Cuts.” The cruel forces of poor economic logic were at work to welcome in the new year. The European Union has become a vicious circle of burgeoning debt leading to radical austerity measures, which in turn further weaken economic conditions and result in calls for still more damaging cuts in government spending and higher taxes. The European debt crisis began with Greece, and that nation remains the European Union’s most stricken economy. But it has spread inexorably to Ireland, Portugal, Italy, and Spain, and even threatens France and possibly the UK. It need not have done so. Rarely do we get so stark an example of bad—arguably even perverse—economic thinking in action.

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Competitiveness and Development: Myth and Realities

Mehdi Shafaeddin

The concept of competitiveness has attracted a lot of attention by scholars, policy makers and international economic institutions in recent decades. But it suffers from some misconception when applied to developing countries. In a forthcoming book, Competitiveness and Development: Myth and Realities (Anthem Press), I have explained that developed countries have been concerned with competitiveness at the high level of development by undertaking, inter alia, technological development and upgrading of their industrial and service activities. Yet, they have been imposing competitiveness at the low level of development on developing countries. They have been doing so, by advocating neo-liberal views, e.g. through Washington Consensus, and imposing across-the-board and universal trade liberalization on developing countries through International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and WTO, and regional and bilateral trade agreements.

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Mission Creep: International Investment Agreements and Sovereign Debt Restructuring

Triple Crisis blogger Kevin P. Gallagher published the following article in the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s (IISD) Investment Treaty News on why international investment agreements (IIAs) should not be used as a way to circumvent debt restructuring.

As members of the Eurozone are now acutely aware, the lack of a sovereign debt restructuring regime is one of the most glaring gaps in the international financial architecture. That said, this summer’s decision by a tribunal of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which grants a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) jurisdiction over Argentina’s restructuring of its sovereign debt in the wake of its 2001 financial crisis, shows that a de-facto regime may be arising whereby international investment agreements (IIAs) can serve as a way for disgruntled investors to circumvent debt restructuring.  This amounts to mission creep on the part of IIAs. Creeping into such territory is too much to take on for the world of IIAs. Sovereign debt restructuring should be left to national governments and international financial and monetary authorities.

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Be Prepared – a good motto for 2012

Martin Khor

At this time 12 months ago, this column had highlighted how the dying year 2010 could be labeled the year of natural calamities, and predicted more on the way.

Sure enough, the year that has just passed witnessed even worse disasters. If 2010 was marked by the Haiti earthquake, 2011 surpassed that in impact (if not in deaths) by the Fukushima triple tragedy of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

But Fukushima was only the worst of the calamities that included hurricanes in Central and Latin America, drought in parts of Africa, massive floods in Thailand and elsewhere, and many typhoons and storms in the Philippines.

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Greece – no cheap and easy way out

Daniela Schwarzer

Almost two years into dealing with the sovereign debt crisis in the Euro area, the problems in Greece are far from being solved. In fact, the free fall of the Greek economy has made the troika’s plans obsolete. Once again the assumptions about GDP development have proven to be overly optimistic. The economy will probably shrink more than the assumed 3%, current estimates actually see the recession as being twice as strong in 2012 than assumed. Given rising internal tensions, growing protests against further reforms, a disorderly default of the Greek state can no longer be excluded. Greece is encountering increasing pressure to fulfill the conditionality attached to the loans provided by the EU and the IMF. The scenario that the troika of IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank actually does not pay out the next tranche of credit in order to keep up pressure on the government to reform and to consolidate is no longer unrealistic.

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The Caribbean and Climate Change: not in the same boat

Elizabeth A. Stanton and Ramón Bueno, guest blogger

Greenhouse gas emissions are a global problem. Regardless of who emits them, these gases impact everyone, everywhere around the world: raising average temperatures and sea levels, and changing historical weather patterns. But climate change will not affect everyone equally. The two dozen island nations of the Caribbean are a case in point. With 40 million people living on islands in a small geographic area, it would be easy – but incorrect – to expect that they will all face the same climate damages. In fact, according to new research from the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Caribbean residents are not all “in the same boat” and should expect to face a very wide diversity of climate impacts.

Yes, each person living in the Caribbean will experience about the same change in climate – temperature increase and shift in weather patterns – and degree of sea-level rise as her neighbors over the next decades. And her children and grandchildren can expect about the same changes to weather and sea levels as their neighbors. But these changes in the physical world will not impact all Caribbean residents in the same way.

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