Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sen on the Global Food Crisis

Amartya Sen, Nobel price winning economist has an op-ed piece titled
"The Rich Get Hungrier" in the New York Times today.

He says, "WILL the food crisis that is menacing the lives of millions
ease up — or grow worse over time? The answer may be both. The recent
rise in food prices has largely been caused by temporary problems like
drought in Australia, Ukraine and elsewhere. Though the need for huge
rescue operations is urgent, the present acute crisis will eventually
end. But underlying it is a basic problem that will only intensify
unless we recognize it and try to remedy it.

It is a tale of two peoples. In one version of the story, a country
with a lot of poor people suddenly experiences fast economic
expansion, but only half of the people share in the new prosperity.
The favored ones spend a lot of their new income on food, and unless
supply expands very quickly, prices shoot up. The rest of the poor now
face higher food prices but no greater income, and begin to starve.
Tragedies like this happen repeatedly in the world.

A stark example is the Bengal famine of 1943, during the last days of
the British rule in India. The poor who lived in cities experienced
rapidly rising incomes, especially in Calcutta, where huge
expenditures for the war against Japan caused a boom that quadrupled
food prices. The rural poor faced these skyrocketing prices with
little increase in income."

Voicing a popular concern that is causing a lot of debate he says,
"There is also a high-tech version of the tale of two peoples.
Agricultural crops like corn and soybeans can be used for making
ethanol for motor fuel. So the stomachs of the hungry must also
compete with fuel tanks."

A very thought provoking op-ed, this can be accessed at--

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