Global Poverty, Food Riots, and the Economic Crisis
by Michel Chossudovsky
January 25, 2011
The Outbreak of Famine
The sugar-coated bullets of the “free market” are killing our children. The act to kill is instrumented in a detached fashion through computer program trading on the New York and Chicago mercantile exchanges, where the global prices of rice, wheat and corn are decided upon.
People in different countries are being impoverished simultaneously as a result of a global market mechanism. A small number of financial institutions and global corporations have the ability to determine the prices of basic food staples quoted on the commodity exchanges, thereby directly affecting the standard of living of millions of people around the world.
This process of global impoverishment has reached a major turning point, leading to the simultaneous outbreak of famines in all major regions of the developing world.
Famine is the result of a process of “free market” restructuring of the global economy which has its roots in the debt crisis of the early 1980s. It is not a recent phenomenon associated with the 2008-2009 economic crisis, as suggested by several Western analysts.
Poverty and chronic undernourishment are pre-existing conditions. The dramatic hikes in food and fuel prices which preceded the 2008-2009 financial crash contributed to exacerbating and aggravating the food crisis. These price hikes, which reached their peak in July 2008, have hit the market for basic food staples, including domestic retail prices, in all regions of the world.
Protest movements directed against the hikes in the prices of food and gasoline erupted simultaneously in different regions of the world. The conditions are particularly critical in Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, India and Bangladesh:
Food prices in Haiti had risen on average by 40 percent in less than a year, with the cost of staples such as rice doubling… In Bangladesh [in late April 2008] some 20 000 textile workers took to the streets to denounce soaring food prices and demand higher wages. The price of rice in the country has doubled in the past year [2007-2008], threatening the workers, who earn a monthly salary of just $25, with hunger. In Egypt, protests by workers over food prices rocked the textile center of Mahalla al-Kobra, north of Cairo [April 2008], with two people shot dead by security forces. Hundreds were arrested, and the government sent plainclothes police into the factories to force workers to work. Food prices in Egypt have risen by 40 percent in the past year… [2007-2008] Earlier this month [April 2008] in the Ivory Coast, thousands marched on the home of President Laurent Gbagbo, chanting “we are hungry” and “life is too expensive, you are going to kill us.”