Friday, May 23, 2008

Bush comment on food crisis sets off firestorm of criticism,brings anger and ridicule - and all for the right reasons.

(In India) middle class is larger than our entire population. When you start getting more wealth you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high and that causes price to go up.”- President George W.Bush

Indians have reacted with an outburst of outrage at what they saw as a suggestion that they were responsible for inflation. Politicians lashed back and newspapers were severe in their excoriation of Bush. Read further to have an analysis of why India is justified in reacting critically.

What I gather from this remark is that the Americans (literally speaking) mean to say that the price one pays for development and progress is hefty. Damning the middle class in such fashion is damning the very concept of enjoying higher standards of living and comfort……key indicators of progress.

Since the U.S.A eats five times more per capita income than India, some see it as brusque unfairness where one country clearly gets to have the bigger slice of the pie and even then gets away with(has the audacity) to blame the underprivileged country for increased consumption.

Further more much of the price rise is caused by an acute food shortage. Countries such as the U.S.A. have fat wallets to support ungainly rounded bellies and can hence afford to import most of their food directly from third world countries such as India and Africa. The food crisis has not in the very least deterred the American spirit of gluttony, with America continuing to munch solidly as one of the most obese nations in the world. The problem faced by America is that though they have all the products available on the shelf, these cost a lot more than before. India however faces the double whammy where neither are all products available and those that are available come at higher prices.

As pointed out by a congress spokesman India is not a net food importer but rather an exporter. This shrinks the local market and drastically decreases supply.

Contrary to hints and suggestions from Bush and Rice I would like to promote a more sensible approach-to improve the existing systems in place rather than decreasing or discouraging the demand from India’s middle class customers. A country where over 60% of the total population is engaged in agriculture, needless to say there is tremendous scope for self-sufficiency in food grains and vegetables.

You will be shocked to know that only a woeful 2% of all food grains stored in granaries finally goes on to be processed. Around Rs.350 billion worth of vegetables goes waste every year. If all the stored food grain could be processed and diverted to the local markets, then that alone will be sufficient to deal with the shortage at hand. Perhaps there will be enough leftover even for export. The wastage could in turn be reduced and the PDS improved. Produce could be procured directly from farmers at fair prices. This would improve the farmer’s revenue and encourage him to produce more for the market. More produce and elimination of the middlemen will definitely bring about a sharp dip in the prices. Self sufficiency and high exports means that other countries will increasingly depend on India, and not the other way round.

It is not consumption that is responsible for the steady incline witnessed in food prices. For instance the rise in energy and natural resource prices naturally contributes to the cost of the inputs adversely. This additional expense can only configure in the final price or else the farmer would be pushed into debt and ultimately bankruptcy.

(Hmmm, energy….that remind me of the fuel controversy).

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel could not resist taking his shot on how India and China are responsible and this time for rise in oil prices.

That certainly is blatant hypocrisy, for as of 2006 the United States was and continues to be the largest producer of Ethanol (an eco fuel) in the world by churning out 4.9 billion gallons. But this colossal figure represents only a measly 2% of America’s 21 million barrels per day (unquenchable) petrochemical thirst. (Talk about energy needs. Phew! Or rather look who’s talking.)

The ethanol issue brings to mind another hotly contested topic-whether it is really beneficial to convert such large tracts of land (chiefly agricultural) to gurgle ethanol or not. In Iowa 25% of the land was transformed to corn fields (the main component of ethanol) and now manages 1million gallons. Agriculturists in India too are fast converting their lands to corn fields, to capitalize on the sudden demand for corn. This of course deprives all markets of supply that would otherwise have more beneficially been consumed directly.

The point being stated here, Mr. Bush is that we don’t need telling from a country that lavishes over $43billion on pet foods each year. We thankfully have our priorities right, thank you very much. We are as much and perhaps even more concerned than you are about rise in food prices for the average Indian will pay far more dearly than the average American. We suggest you look into the problems and faults of your own country first before setting off to play so very often the blame game. And yes, we are tired and sick of India and China being the regular suspects and targets, responsible for anything and everything that seems to go wrong.

Feel i've been to hard on Bush?Feel free to comment and give me slack.


  1. You haven't at all been hard at Bush. I feel these blatant barbs on Mr. President are justified. Just to hide his faults he cannot blame countries like China and India, which are developing right now.
    The developed countries also create hurdles to reduce the industrialization in developing countries in the name of environmental protection.

  2. harshvardhansiddharthanMay 27, 2008 at 11:40 AM

    thank you!

  3. Chiliasm says : I absolutely agree with this !