World Bank echoes India’s call to stem food prices

April 14th, 2008 - 10:44 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of P. Chidambaram
By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 14 (IANS) Echoing a call by India, finance ministers from around the world have sought urgent action to stem rising food prices, warning that social unrest will spread unless the cost of basic staples is contained. “We have to put our money where our mouth is now, so that we can put food into hungry mouths. It is as stark as that,” World Bank President Robert Zoellick said at the end of a meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank’s Development Committee Sunday.

Earlier addressing the committee, Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had asked the global community to collectively deliberate on immediate steps to reverse the unconscionable increases in the price of food, which threatens to negate the benefits to the poor nations.

“It is becoming starker by the day that unless we act fast for a global consensus on the price spiral, the social unrest induced by food prices in several countries will conflagrate into a global contagion leaving no country - developed or otherwise -unscathed,” he said.

Zoellick again cited growth in India and China to advance what he called a “One Percent Solution to build equity investment in Africa so that it can become a complementary growth pole in 10-15 years, just as China, India, and others are complementary poles today.”

“The allocation of even one percent of the assets of Sovereign Wealth Funds to equity investment in Africa could draw $30 billion to African growth, development and opportunity,” he said, reporting a “very positive feedback on this idea.”

Zoellick said the Development Committee Ministers had endorsed his proposal for a “New Deal for Global Food Policy” and had also called on donors to fill the $500 million feeding gap identified by the World Food Programme.

Noting that high commodity prices and their impact on growth and development will be a topic for the G8 finance ministers in Japan in June, he said: “This is important and can help build towards that New Deal. But, frankly speaking, the G8 meeting is in June and we cannot wait for that.”

Zoellick estimated that a doubling of food prices over the last three years could potentially push 100 million people in low-income countries deeper into poverty. “This is not just a question about short-term needs, as important as those are. This is about ensuring that future generations don’t pay a price too.”

The Development Committee endorsed the overall World Bank Group (WBG) objective of contributing to an inclusive and sustainable globalisation - to overcome poverty, and enhance growth with care for the environment.

A communiqu

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