Has UNCTAD gone crazy?

I was reading about the world summit on the global food crisis that is taking place in Rome with great interest when I was shocked to read this news report about the United Nations Conference on Trade And Development (UNCTAD) blaming India and China for the rising food prices.

UNCTAD’s Secretary-General Supachai Panitchpakdi said at the summit, ”As rising demand for food resulting from economic growth in such countries as China and India has combined with droughts and high energy prices, the basic cost of food has climbed 54 per cent in the past 12 months.”

The folks at UNCTAD should either find a way to increase food production or they should blame the developed countries and not India and China . . .

Image: http://www.healthline.com

The President of the USA, George W. Bush said something similar recently, but one could dismiss it as a meaningless statement from a differently disabled duck of a President who is nearing the end of his political career. But such a statement coming from someone like the Secretary-General of UNCTAD is very surprising indeed. What surprises one even more is the fact that Supachai Panitchpakdi is from Thailand, a country that is similar to India and China in several ways, except land area.

What does the UNCTAD Secretary-General’s statement mean? It means that India and China are pushing up world food prices because of increased demand for food products in the two Asian giants. It means that the developed countries can get away with the utterly wasteful lifestyle of their citizens, but the two Asian countries must not aim to get rid of hunger in their countries. It means that the citizens of India and China should not buy adequate food but the developed countries can get away with burning large quantities of grains to keep prices under control while millions of people are starving in Africa. It means that India and China should not attempt to get rid of poverty and undernourishment in their countries but the developed world can get away with unfair trade practices that are robbing millions of Africans of what is rightfully theirs. In short, it means that India and China should perpetually keep their citizens in poverty to enable the citizens of the developed countries of the world get away with their wasteful lifestyles! To sum it up in three words, despicable double standards!

I do not know about China, but let me present a few facts about my beloved country:

# While the food and fuel consumption of the middle classes and above (about 300 million) has increased because of economic growth, there are hundreds of millions of people who still live in poverty in India. Their calorific intake is quite low and they use very little fuel – kerosene/LPG (in urban areas) and firewood/charcoal/bio-gas (in rural areas) for cooking, no fuel for heating – except for a few states that need heating only in winter, India is a hot tropical country that needs no heating, and very little fuel for their vehicles as they use public transport or bicycles or small mopeds for commuting. So even if one takes the average food and fuel consumption of Indians, it is way, way behind the developed countries. Actually, it would be closer to the poor countries of the world. So why the hell should UNCTAD blame India?

# India’s population has a large percentage of vegetarians. I do not have any figures for this, but I am sure that India would have the highest percentage of vegetarians among all the countries of the world, unlike China whose population is mostly non-vegetarian. So how the hell can UNCTAD blame India for rising food prices around the world?

# India is largely self-sufficient in food production and is even a net exporter of food. So how the hell can India be responsible for rising food prices around the world?

The developed countries are responsible for the rising prices of fuel and not India . . .

Image: www.classiccarrestorationparts.com

# India is the second largest two-wheeler market in the world, after China, but 99% of those two wheelers are ultra fuel efficient, low capacity (with an engine capacity of less than 200cc), low emissions motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. India’s emission norms are quite strict, just a notch below those of the E.U. and much, much better than those in China. Also, electric scooters are becoming very popular in India these days.

# India’s car ownership figure is 7 per 1000, compared to China’s 10 per 1000, Mexico’s 142 per 1000, South Korea’s 218 per 1000, Qatar’s 335 per 1000, Japan’s 441 per 1000, the USA’s 465 per 1000, Germany’s 546 per 1000, Canada’s 561 per 1000, Italy’s 590 per 1000, New Zealand’s 592 per 1000 and Luxembourg’s 647 per 1000. So who the hell is UNCTAD trying to fool?

# About 80% of the cars sold in India are eco-friendly, fuel-efficient, compact cars that meet the government norms for small cars – less than 4m in length with an engine capacity of less than 1200cc for petrol/gasoline engined cars and less than 1500cc for diesel engined cars. Though there is no weight limit for small cars, almost all compact cars weigh less than 1150kg. Compare this with the ugly, humungous, fuel-guzzling, fume-spewing cars, SUVs and pick-up trucks that litter the roads of North America. How the hell can UNCTAD blame India for rising fuel prices around the world when the fault lies with the developed countries?

# Thanks to the government’s policy of encouraging compact car production, India is all set to become the global hub for the design, development and manufacture of compact but spacious and comfortable, light but safe, ultra fuel efficient, ultra low emissions and affordable cars like the Tata Nano. One international car manufacturer who was churning out ugly, humungous, fuel-guzzling and fume-spewing SUVs and pick-up trucks has been forced to shut down four plants that manufacture such vehicles due to rising fuel prices. Tata Motors has aggressive plans to market the Nano in the E.U., African, Latin American and ASEAN markets, so now there is a mad scramble by international (and Indian) car manufacturers to develop their own cars that adhere to the ‘nano’car philosophy of affordable, fuel-efficient, eco-friendly, safe and comfortable personal transport. So why the hell should UNCTAD blame India? If anything, they should thank India for showing the way forward to the rest of the world!

I am also surprised by the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s statement that countries should not put export bans in place. That is a ridiculous statement from the UN Secretary-General. What does Mr. Moon want food exporting countries to do? Let the rising food prices lead to food riots within their countries? In times of crises, Mr. Moon, it is every country for itself and its people! Afterall, democracy is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people of that country!

If UNCTAD still wants to blame India for the ills of the world that are caused by the utterly wasteful lifestyles of the citizens of the developed countries, then it is time for the world to throw out that organisation lock, stock and barrel and find more competent people to do the job!

This entry was posted in agriculture, alternate energy, Ban Ki-Moon, cars, China, crops, democracy, Earth, economics, economy, environment, farming, food crisis, food riots, India, inflation, life, motorcycles, news, peak oil, politics, poverty, price rise, random, road safety, Supachai Panitchpakdi, the U.N., thoughts, Uncategorized, UNCTAD, world, world food summit and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

36 Responses to Has UNCTAD gone crazy?

  1. vishesh says:

    interesting post..i think we should tell the developed countries to stop their cars and go hungry for a while….i think we are going back to the olden days,the good old days when countries blame each other ,this time though as citizens of planet earth,we shouldn’t let politicans have their way…

  2. Have you read the actual UNCTAD report?.
    If not read it here in pdf format http://www.unctad.org

    Its boring, but i read it and found nothing that blames India nad China alone for current food crisis.

    It has listed several reasons for the food crisis. However, PTI (press trust of India) has picked just one reason that matched with what President Bush said few weeks ago and grossly misrepresented facts.
    The blame should be put on NDTV,TOI and PTI for spreading rumours as UNCTAD has done a good job of coming out with an unbiased report that blamed
    US,EUROPE for farm subsidies, rise is population that increases demand on food grains, under-productivity of agricultural lands, diversion fo agricultural lands for biofuels.

    Please read the actual reports before trusting our newspapers especiall Times Of India.
    Here is my blog http://enewss.wordpress.com/2008/06/04/unctad-blames-india-china-for-rising-food-prices-reports-pti/

  3. Nita says:

    Raj, I think you should take a look at
    this post of Sri’s. He has said that the news items have been sensationalised. The remarks of UNCTAD have been taken out of context to sell newspapers. You know what our newspapers are like.

  4. francina says:

    Hi, its obvious, i think, that the ones who rule and control the world, like in this silly and unuseful meetings like UNCTAD, are not doing a good job at all. How can increase the misery in poor countries while, at the same time, the richer countries become more rich?
    I’m pissed off about them, who make decisions just for they interests, and just dont care about the hard reality of poor countries. Food and petrol are becoming very expensive everywhere, but, did u know that many supermarkets at the end of the day, just throw expired products at the bin?
    This products may be expired but also can be consumed, i think, some days later…WHAT ABOUT THIS THROWN FOOD?
    Isnt it better to find a solution with the food we have (re-organize, pack and send… ) than put higher prices?

  5. Vishesh,

    The citizens of the developed countries are also feeling the pinch! That is why General Motors was forced to shut down four factories that churned out fuel-guzzling fume-spewers.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you when you say that we should think of ourselves as Earthlings first. But as a truly patriotic Indian, if someone tries to blame my people for something that we did not do, I get angry!

    Thanks for posting those useful links. I took a quick look and I agree that the report is quite comprehensive. Maybe the folks at UNCTAD are competent afterall.

    Though the media may have tried to pick a single reason, the fact is that Supachai Panitchpakdi did mention it. But look at how he clubbed the rising demand for food in India and China with droughts and high energy prices! How the hell can he do that? As if India is the cause of global warming that is leading to worldwide change in weather patterns! You know who is primarily responsible for global warming and high energy prices. The countries that polluted the Earth for a century with their fuel-guzzling fume-spewers, ofcourse! And now they want to prevent us from using our eco-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles! Shocking and shameful!

    By the way, I don’t read the Times of India. I know what kind of paper it is 🙂
    Thanks, Nita.

    It feels good to get a journalist’s perspective on this. I agree that the Indian “mainstream media” has tried to sensationalise the issue, as they usually do.

    But UNCTAD has no right whatsoever to blame us! The Chinese government has replied aggressively that the world has to thank China because the Chinese have also managed to achieve self-sufficiency in food and are also a net exporter of food, just like us. India and China have achieved this feat despite feeding more than 1.1 billion of their own citizens each, thanks to the toil of our farmers and agricultural scientists. India has done a better job than China in agriculture because we(3,287,590 sq.km.) are a much smaller country than China(9,596,960 sq.km.) in terms of land area! So instead of thanking India and China for taking care of the nutritional needs of one-third of humankind, UNCTAD wants to blame us! I have a suspicion that UNCTAD is not very different from organisations known for their notoriety like the World Bank and the IMF.

    I feel that UNCTAD should have lashed out at the unsustainable consumption levels of the developed countries! It is the developed countries who are primarily responsible for the present mess and not India! I guess the following statement would be true in this case:

    Those who live in heated glasshouses should not throw stones at those who live in eco-friendly dwellings that are made of earth! . . . Mother Earth knows who is responsible for the global mess and who is not! . . .

  6. Hola, Francina.

    It is good to read your comment as you are a citizen of the E.U. but feel that UNCTAD is doing a bad job. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Take a look at how they are squabbling among themselves in Roma, feasting on delicious Italian food all the time while millions of African children are staring at death due to starvation.

    It makes me sad to hear that the supermarkets throw away so much food. While I believe that expired products should not be dumped on African countries that are facing a serious crisis, atleast some non-perishable items can be given away to those who desperately need it.

    // How can they increase the misery in poor countries while, at the same time, the richer countries become more rich? I’m pissed off about them, who make decisions just for they interests, and just don’t care about the hard reality of poor countries.//

    You have summed it up beautifully!

    Moltes gràcies, Francina!

  7. francina says:

    HI RAJ!!!
    Supermarkets are always PACKED of items, and i can’t believe all them are sold…what i mean with this is that in the world THERE IS ENOUGH food, but its not well distributed…The problem of starving people in the world its been for AGES.
    So, I cant believe this is going to get worst!…whats in the minds of those people who rule the world? Are all they crazy or just idiots? Of course while they do their “job” in this silly meetings, they sleep in 10 star hotel and eat great feasts!
    I would put them to live, fo example, in a poor area of Africa, for 1 month…i’m sure later they would do a PROPER JOB in this kind of meetings…

  8. Raj,
    Global issues such as global warming and food inflation shouldn’t be looked at narrowly. There are few genuine institutions in the world who are investing time and efforts to better our lives.

    Poverty, food inflation is not just an India issue. This is global issue and should be solved by independent organizations. We should trust and contribute to UNCTAD instead.
    I see no hatred for India/China in UNCTAD report. I also didn’t find any blame in President BUSH speech either. I read/heard the whole speech of President Bush. He actually complemented Emergeing markets and didn’t blame us. It was PTI which caricatured the speech and now UNCTAD report.
    The UNCTAD report equally blamed us and the west for current crisis. This food inflation is affecting United States also not to mention poor African and Asian nations.

    I hope you all look at that report again with impassionate eye.

  9. Nita says:

    I agree with Sri completely. Even where Bush was concerned the remarks were taken out of context (which I realised later) and they were done to sensationalise the issue. I had blamed Bush initially but when I found out more about the issue I realised I was wrong…
    Like Sri said, global warming and the energy crisis and the food crisis are global issues. There was no insult or blame in the report at all. All countries contribute to it.
    Thanks Sri for bringing this up. I hope truth prevails in the India media at some point of time otherwise all they will succeed in doing is rouse people’s emotions.

  10. Thanks Nita. This is a wierd world where we don not know whom to trust for a reliable source of information. Atleast bloggers should put in extra effort to get the truth out.

  11. Nita, Sridhar,

    I guess since both of you are trained journalists, you would like to look at this issue from a purely journalistic point of view.

    But leaving aside our economic beliefs, if we try to look at it from a point of view of a neutral Earthling, the truth is already out, albeit inadvertently. The fact remains that some of the developed countries consume and have been consuming much more than what our beautiful planet can tolerate. But when rapidly developing countries like India and China make modest improvements in the standards of living of their citizens, they cannot tolerate it because consumption of the planet as a whole increases which would expose their unsustainable levels of consumption.

    Please take a look at this beautiful real-time map of emissions and births:

    Breathing Earth

    It is an interactive map that will give us a lot of details for each country on Earth.

    It makes things crystal clear. While people are being born in the developing countries at a much faster rate, the developed countries with fairly small populations are emitting massive amounts of carbon dioxide. So if we calculate the average per capita emissions, a huge anomaly would be noticed – the citizens of the developed countries are primarily responsible for global warming as they always have been! So even if the “world leaders” did not blame India, the truth about who should take the blame is there for all to see! The truth can never lie! It is good that conscious citizens of the developed countries of the E.U. are making individual efforts to control their emissions along with the efforts of their progressive governments but those on the other side of the pond would like to point out the specks of dust in our eyes while being consciously unmindful of the logs in their eyes! This crisis has exposed the forces who are responsible for all the mess on planet Earth. I don’t want to be blamed as I try very hard not to exceed the average carbon footprint for humans! Let the blame for the crisis fall on those who are responsible for it!

  12. Nita says:

    Raj, no one is denying that. The fact is that slowly all countries will become like that….that is where we are heading. And in fact we could be worse in another 100 years as we have more people.
    All of us are from this same planet and let us all contribute to make it a better place.

  13. Raj,
    I am not a journalist. The point of discussion was did BUSH,UNCTAD blamed India. Once it was proven (atleast for me) that they didn’t blame, you started drifting away from the path and blaming WEST for global warming.

    Yes, it is true that the West is the cause of Pollution and also for current Food crisis. However, India and China in few years to come will add to that crisis. The efforts are underway to prevent just that and one such organization called UNCTAD is coming out with a report.

    Blaming anybody will not prevent the outcome of food crisis nor solve it.

    Market forces will rectify the man made food inflation disaster. While we are spending time exchanging heated arguements on this blame game, investors are already pouring in Billions of dollars to improve farming by buying equipment, acres of land etc in Africa. Read todays report on NYTIMES.

    Just few years ago, no one knew that driving car would add to global warming. Now that we are learning it, we are trying to find ways to avoid that and finding alternative ways.
    GM, Honda are already working on electric cars which will hit the market by 2010, while we are relishing Tata’s people’s car which again adds to energy demand and pollution. while we concentrated on engineering feet and lavishing praises on Tata’s chairman, very few started questioning the need for low priced car. Certainly our finance minister was not happy, because Tata’s people’s car will swell our account deficit because of huge Oil bill.

  14. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Francina. We usually don’t try to look at ourselves as Earthlings. But once we try to do that, we begin to realise that we should behave as responsible children of Mother Earth. I guess this link will have a serious impact on anyone who reads it:


    Now, those “world leaders” who are squabbling politically and economically among themselves in Roma at the moment should be forced to live in such a place for a month. I am sure that they would stop thinking about political and economical concepts and do something to save the Earth and her children. But I guess it would never happen. The world is so deeply divided on superficial and artificial issues that we would never come together as Earthlings for a cause that concerns all of us. I don’t know what is going to save the planet 😕 Ofcourse, if Father Time and Mother Earth decide that we have collectively failed as the leading species on the planet, we may have to go the way of the dinosaurs! 🙂
    Nita, Sridhar,

    While I agree that the report is a comprehensive one, why should we trust the people at UNCTAD to better our lives? I am very suspicious of organisations that claim to be altruistic and working for the betterment of society by imposing their views on others, like the notorious IMF and the World Bank.

    The successful concepts are ones that work from the bottom(a solid base) all the way to the top – like the Great Pyramids of Egypt! Have we ever heard of self-contradictory top down or trickle down concepts working? No! Like inverted pyramids that rest on a sharp tip, they either fall down or collapse out of their own contradictions sooner rather than later!

    So I firmly believe that as individual Earthlings, we have to make the effort ourselves instead of waiting for a superman from planet Krypton to arrive and save us as he is never going to arrive! That is how pyramids function – very, very solid at the base(individuals) and the next level builds on it(family) and the next level on it(village/town/city) and the next level on it(state/province) and the next level on it(country) and the next level on it(continent) and the next level on it(Earth).

    Afterall we have only one planet! It is upto each one of us to save it!

  15. Well, Sridhar, I guess you trust only certain news sources. They will always hide the truth from us. Please don’t blame Ratan Tata as the West does. He knows the impact that the Nano is going to cause and he already has a solution on hand, more revolutionary and high-tech and sophisticated than what either GM or Honda can ever dream of. Please take a look at this:

    The Air Car

    Nanos will be equipped with engines that run on compressed air at some point of time in the near future!

  16. Raj,
    I really trsut myself. I am critique of anything that is biased.
    You are talking of compressed air technology that will come in near future. GM and Honda are talking about electric cars in 2010. What do you think will happen in near future?
    By the time 2010, Tata would have already sold millions of Nano with old technology and Honda/GM would have started marketing electric cars.

    Don’t be angry at me. I am proud of what Tata is doing but when you say that Tata is coming up with a technolgy that GM/Honda can ever dream, that is what pains me a lot.
    Being practical is what i learnt over the years.
    Tata is still following the curve set by Auto gaints. It will take time for Tata to be ahead of the curve and that time has not arrived yet.

  17. Sridhar,

    You talk of bias. You say that GM and Honda are going to come out with electric cars in 2010. Have you not heard that India already HAS a company that manufactures high-tech electric cars, sells them in India and exports them to the E.U.? Ofcourse, the biased stooges of GM and Honda will never tell you that since they indirectly work for the corporations in the first world!

    REVA – The electriCity Car

    We need to have trust in ourselves before we trust the stooges who call themselves newspapers as they work for the first world corporations.

  18. I am not angry with you Sridhar. Not at all. I just want to put the blame where it belongs. Cars like the CAT and the Mini-CAT already run on compressed air engines developed by MDI of France. Tata has invested in the technology and has obtained the exclusive licence for its use in India. So Tata does not follow the curve set by incompetent companies like GM. If it did, it would never have been in a position to purchase Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. If it did follow the curve set by GM, it would never have built a car that is the least expensive one of all time in the history of the planet(Nano) if you adjust for inflation. If it did, it would never have been in a position to compete for the title of the most fuel efficient car in the world with two modified versions of the Nano with alternate energy technologies.

    Super fuel-efficient car

  19. sridhar kondoji says:

    We have deviated far away from the main topic.
    While i can argue on few of the points you raised above, i feel that this is not an appropriate place for it.

  20. I guess we have deviated. But anyway, it was great having you on this post Sri. Thanks and have a good night’s sleep! 🙂

  21. francina says:

    raj, i already know about that photo…
    its just….i dont know…no words…
    just horrible…

  22. Sí, Francina, I don’t know what to say about that photo either . . . when I was a kid, I thought life was a bed of roses and full of fun . . . but later I realised that every human being is just a tiny drop of water in the mighty ocean called humanity . . . just a minute grain of sand in the mighty desert called humankind . . . it is photos like that one by Kevin Carter which can bring us back to the Earth with a thud . . . that photo is . . . I don’t know, no language on Earth can have a word to describe the feelings, emotions and thoughts that Kevin’s photo can describe . . . a photo like that is worth a zillion words in any language . . . poor Kevin . . . I feel very, very sorry for him . . .

  23. francina says:

    yeah, poor kevin…
    I guess that was too much for him…
    This politicians should have this picture in front of them!!!

  24. I wholeheartedly agree with you!!!

  25. vishesh says:

    hi raj
    when’s the next post 😀

  26. I’ve had a fairly hectic week in the real world, Vishesh, so I am enjoying the weekend 🙂

    I have a few incomplete posts sitting in the drafts folder, I’ll try to post one by tomorrow.

  27. wpm1955 says:

    I think people are reacting emotionally to some statements that have been misinterpreted.

    I don’t think anyone (including George Bush) was saying that Asian countries should not eat like Americans. I think they were just pointing out that in the past they were not consuming as much meat and grain per person. Now that they both want to and can afford to, it is just a case of more demand for the available supply, thus the price goes up. No one is to blame for this, it is just a fact of economics.

    Best regards,
    Madame Monet

  28. wpm1955 says:

    I forgot to say that this recent food crisis has caught me by surprise, as I was expecting we might have “water wars” and true crisis in water before we had it with food.

    This is starting to remind me of the “fruit flies in the bottle” biology experiment that we do in America when we are about 15, in Biology Lab. (When the fruit flies multiply too fast, pollute their environment, and outstrip their food supply, they all die off in masses.)

    Madame Monet, in Marrakesh
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine

  29. Merci beaucoup, Madame Monet!

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that even if we don’t blame anyone, we must blame economics.

    I guess “water wars”, “food wars” and “oil wars” all lead to different kinds of wars in which millions of lives are lost. The Middle-East and Africa are prime examples. We have had millions killed because of the “oil war” in Iraq. We have had tens of thousands killed in Darfur and millions pushed into poverty and starvation due to the “water war” and “food war” caused by global warming that has led to the desertification of vast tracts of land on the fringes of the Sahara desert.

    It is very sad that instead of having humanity as the guiding principle for our planet, we have economics 😦

    Thanks for your valuable comments on this post, Mme. Monet.

  30. leafless says:

    The food crisis is a global problem. There are equal amounts of blame to go around. The world is experiencing the transformation of usually reliable food producers into industrial nations. The industrialization of these countries is causing the global food supply to dwindle. There isn’t much we can do to solve the problem.

  31. I agree with you that it is a global problem, Leafless. Even if we do not blame anyone, we must put the blame on the severely flawed, self-contradictory economic concept called “free market capitalism”. It is indeed quite upsetting to know that even some educated people in my country, roused to a fervour by jingoism, malign not just India but also humanity by sucking up to notorious criminal organisations like the IMF, the WTO and the World Bank that are solely responsible for both the food crisis and the destruction of our beautiful planet.

  32. Sakhi says:

    Hey, A good article there. And i read the comment section almost till half which had become longer than your original article 🙂

    The debate is fine but i think instead of blaming each other and other nations, if we, as a responsible citizens take the initiative of not wasting food or the electricity or taking care not to throw garbage and recycle it we can actually live in the beautiful world we all are longing for. Though i know it is not easy nor will it be like that with a snap of our fingers… but politician are politicians , be it here or the world over… its we, people, who have to take care of enviornment, again, be it food, water or energy.

    If we do our bit, everything else will fall into place one by one.

    probably too optimistic a thing, but anyways! 🙂

  33. Sakhi says:

    BTW adding you to my blog roll

  34. Thanks, Sakhi! I’m adding you to my blogroll as well 🙂

    I wholeheartedly agree with you that an effort must be made by each one of us. Afterall, we are supposed to be the most intelligent species on our planet. That is what differentiates us from the scaly reptiles that roamed the Earth a long time ago. Humans are supposed to be sapient.

  35. заказать картину,

    Большое спасибо! 🙂

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