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Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world's most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak has ordered Egypt's army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 -- some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line.
Similarly, rice crisis comes to Philipines, food concerns everywhere.
I mean hell, if I've fretted about how much higher my grocery bills have gotten -- on my hard-currency salary as a foreigner who is, comparatively, obscenely wealthy -- it's hard for me to imagine how terrifying this whole thing must be for someone on a pension or absurdly low government salary. According to the World Bank, 20 percent of the population here lives on less than $2 a day (that's what they call the poverty line), and another 20 percent lives "just above" that line. And food prices have doubled since the beginning of the year. Doubled.
But prices have been rising for a while -- I've been hearing these complaints from workers for the last year, at least -- and the government is just now starting to sit up and take notice. And they're doing what they can -- ordering the Army to bake bread, if that's not too surreal for us to comprehend -- but not really addressing the root of the problem here, which is not just rising prices (that's global) but stagnant wages and an entire wage system that's just corrupt and broken, and doesn't just encourage "rent-seeking" behavior on the part of civil servants, teachers, doctors etc., it depends upon it. The entire wage and employment system is built on corruption, but it benefits the people making the decisions, and so they will order the Army to bake bread poor, but they will not change the system to really benefit the poor.
For more reasoned takes on the situation in Egypt have a look at this blog post and a very interesting comment on it, and then this excellent assessment of the general strike dynamics, and this essay on the wider situation here. (Full disclosure: all of those posts and the interesting comment were been written by people I know to varying degrees... good god, this city of 18 million people is seeming rather small right now.)
So anyway, those riots in Haiti made me think, for some reason, of the classic song "Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear...
Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Marcus Garvey words come to pass.
Can't get no food to eat.
Can't get no money to spend....
that might help free the log-jam. But it's the impossibiity of getting rid of the very top that makes it so hard.
keep to the Fen Causeway
The Brotherhood knew this was going to happen to some extent, but they were even surprised by how far it went this time. They had actually admitted that they were going to try to get "secret" candidates on the ballots, people whose affiliation with the Brotherhood was not publicized, but the NDP and the government (which are really the same thing) basically kept everyone off the ballots except people from their own ranks and a tiny number of people from established (but minor) opposition parties. The so-called "independent" candidates who did run were mainly members of the NDP who quit the party having failed to secure its nomination, and who will re-join the party if elected. (This happens in every election -- the NDP isn't really a party, it's a group of mercenaries.)
I've seen a lot of joke elections in my time, but this is the worst one.
Mind you, this kind of ballot rigging is becoming the "acceptable" face of electoral abuse and, whilst it works for a while, it just makes the resolution more violent and destructive. Nobody benefits, but the despots can't resist clinging on for just one more election.
It's terrifyng to think how much of a mess the world will become in a few years and any solution is impossible cos the vested interests won't allow it.
ps Can't find out easily but aren't there significant freshwater wetlands in SW Africa somewhere ? Can't they become cultivated for rice ? Just a thought.
keep to the Fen Causeway
So voila, in the next presidential election (when, one assumes, the NDP candidate will be Gamal Mubarak, the current president's son) nobody will be able to meet the constitutional requirements and field a candidate, but it will all be perfectly "legal."
But the food riots in Mahalla (and my understanding is that it really seems to have been food riots by unemployed youth, not labor riots by striking workers) are really not about the Brotherhood. The MB is not affiliated with the striking workers of Mahalla -- they are more closely associated with the leftists, although not entirely so, and some of them are actually members of the NDP as well. But the Mahalla thing is emphatically not a Brotherhood-related matter.
Re: rice in southern Africa... There's the Okavango Delta, which is almost entirely a protected wilderness and wildlife area, with some mining concessions. Both mining and tourism are more lucrative for Botswana (which is one of the most water-impoverished countries on earth) than agriculture likely ever will be, and then there's the whole issue of what to do with the elephants, zebras, rhinos, wild dogs, lions, cheetahs, etc.... Hard to really do crop cultivation around so many predators and rompy-stompy herds of elephants.
Rice prices hit the $1,000-a-tonne level for the first time on Thursday as panicking importers scrambled to secure supplies, exacerbating the tightness already provoked by export restrictions in Vietnam, India, Egypt, China and Cambodia.The jump came as the Philippines, the largest rice importer, failed for the fourth time to secure as much rice as it wanted.The unsuccessful tender followed Bangladesh's inability to buy any rice at all this week.Traders and analysts warned that rice demand was escalating in spite of prices rising to three times the level of a year ago as countries try to build up stocks.
The jump came as the Philippines, the largest rice importer, failed for the fourth time to secure as much rice as it wanted.
The unsuccessful tender followed Bangladesh's inability to buy any rice at all this week.
Traders and analysts warned that rice demand was escalating in spite of prices rising to three times the level of a year ago as countries try to build up stocks.
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