Yesterday, the world’s economic ministers sat up and took notice of the skyrocketing food prices. They made an attention-getting statement that in their view, the price of food may cause a greater threat to economic and political stability than the current turmoil in capital markets.
Nowhere is that reflected firsthand than in Haiti where over the weekend the price of food was the direct cause of rioting and the collapse of the government. In an almost unanimous vote, Haiti's senators voted to remove Prime Minister Jacques Edouard Alexis. The key reason for Alexis's ouster was his inability to secure lower prices for the millions of starving Haitians who can no longer afford food.
Prior to the recent catastrophic upsurge in food prices, Haiti was already teetering. As Haiti imports almost all its food, since global food prices have risen 40 percent in the past six months it means that prices have nearly doubled in parts of Haiti. This adds grave consequences in a country where 2.4 million people already cannot afford the minimum daily calories recommended by the World Health Organization. To see the human side of the situation, read more.
The food prices set off riots last week in which six people were killed including a Nigerian officer with the UN police force. Although the riots are now quelled for the most part, aid workers fear the violence will continue if nothing is immediately done. One Haitian put a face on the hardship saying, "I hope that one day I'll see rice go back down at least 10 gourdes (26 cents) and I will be able to feed my kids at least two meals a day."
Perhaps fearing a trend in other third world countries, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) called for urgent action to tackle soaring global food prices and to also begin creating longer-range solutions to ensure adequate food supplies. President Bush also weighed in today and has has asked senior aides to look into how the United States can help alleviate the problem.
Are you more concerned about the world's food situation than the credit crisis? If you were a Bush senior aide, how would you recommend that the US help?