Saturday, April 12, 2008

Why There Are Food Riots In Haiti

April 2008, The Associated Press

Food prices, which have risen 40% on average globally since mid-2007, are causing unrest around the world. But they pose a particular threat to democracy in Haiti, where most people live on less than $2 a day.

“We hope the president says food prices are going to go down,” said Paul Fleury, a 53-year-old man who has been unemployed for a decade. “I have five kids and I provide food if I can. Some days it’s bread and sugar.”

Haiti, home to 8.5 million people, is the poorest country in the Americas.

Eighty per cent of its population earns less than $2 a day, below the UN-established poverty rate. “Living conditions are horrible. We are tired of hearing promises, we want fast action,” Wilson, one of the protesters outside the presidential palace, told the AFP news agency.

Price Rises. The protests began after a sudden jump in prices for fuel and basic food commodities.

The rice price has doubled from $35 to $70 for a 120 pound sack, and gasoline has seen its third price hike in less than two months.

Jacques-Edouard Alexis, Haiti’s prime minister, condemned the protests but acknowledged the source of the discontent. On Monday he announced a $42 million program to ease the situation, including the creation of thousands of jobs for youth, grants for small businesses, and other measures to solve the problems.

“These measures take time. We need to have patience,” he said on local radio.

April 11, Washington (AKI)

Rising food prices will threaten economic growth and worsen poverty around the world, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The organization says price increases will put further strain on a global economy already hard hit by a financial crisis.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, said the price increases were caused by drought in Australia and in central Europe, and growing demand for food in Asian countries. Higher oil prices are exacerbating costs in many countries as well.

“Food prices increased by 48 percent since the end of 2006 until now, which is a huge increase, and it may undermine all the gains we have obtained in reducing poverty,” Strauss-Kahn said. The IMF said because food represents a larger share of what poorer consumers buy, a global increase in food prices has a bigger impact on inflation in poorer countries.

As a sign of growing strain, there have been recent food riots in Haiti and Egypt.

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