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 . . .
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 . . .
# 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!