International

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World Bank Chief Urges Action on Soaring Food Prices

April 15, 2008 10:01 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
World Bank head Robert Zoellick has called for international aid to rein in food prices after riots over food prices erupted in several countries.

30-Second Summary

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Zoellick asked governments to grant the UN World Food Program a total of $500 million in aid by May 1, saying that the world “has to put our money where our mouth is.”

The call to action comes after riots in Egypt, Haiti, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Ethiopia over rising food costs have become a threat to those countries’ political stability. Pakistan and Thailand have gone so far as to deploy troops to prevent people from looting food storage.

In Egypt, over 15 people have been killed in rioting sparked by the country’s deteriorating economy. Although inflows of foreign direct investment are helping bolster Egypt’s GDP, U.K. paper The Guardian writes that “things aren’t so great if you’re an ordinary Egyptian,”

Local novelist Hamdy el-Gazzar says that “Egyptians are generally not known as explosive people, but tell them you are raising the price of bread—of life—and beware.”

In Haiti, Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis was removed from office in a 16-11 vote on Saturday due to widespread unrest over mounting fuel and food prices.

Garment workers in Bangladesh toppled cars and buses in protest of soaring food prices. “The $25 basic minimum salary was fixed in 2006. But … prices of rice and other food items have almost doubled or tripled,” said Nazma Akhter, president of the country’s United Garment Workers Union.

Several analysts blame biofuels for the skyrocketing food prices. Indian Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said, “When millions of people are going hungry, it's a crime against humanity that food should be diverted to biofuels.”

However, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva argues that development, not biofuels, is the reason for rising food prices.

Headline Link: ‘World Bank Leader Urges Action on Food’

Background: Rising global wheat prices spark civil unrest

Egypt
Bangladesh
Haiti

Video: ‘Global Pulse—4/03/08: World Wheat Crisis’

Historical Context: State subsidies and riots in the Middle East

Opinion: Are biofuels to blame?

Biofuels and subsidies at fault
Defending biofuels

Analysis: The riots in Egypt

Related Topics: The biofuels debate

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