Imported chicken, eggs, coconuts and onions to save the regime

Saturday, 25 December 2010 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Sri Lanka Guardian: ‘Rata Nagamu – Api Wawamu’ were strikingly nationalistic promises and catchy phrases President Rajapaksa spelled out in his ‘Chinthana’ when he asked for the people’s votes to give him the reins to lead the country to peace, prosperity, lower unemployment plus various other promises.

These two features alone can produce much food for consumption, enable the export of excess material and create hundreds of thousands of jobs to bring relief to the young out of schools and universities. The people trusted him and, quite rightly, expected him to honour that trust.

Farmers, industrialists and indigenous investors looked forward to leadership from him and his future Cabinet to help the country and the investors concerned in the process. As months passed, they were alarmed their hopes and the assurances of the President were not working out.

Prices of chicken, eggs, coconuts and onions gathered to rise. They reached heights not seen before resulting in even respectable citizens taking to thievery and armed robbery just to keep their heads above water. Repeated requests from producer interests and trade chambers of the industries concerned to help them remain competitive did not evoke satisfactory responses from the ruling elite.

It is in challenging times such as this the ability and efficiency of Cabinet Ministers are put to the test. I recall immediately after the July ’83 days Lalith Athulathmudali – as Minister of Trade – showed his extraordinary learning and talents.

Together with his officials, the CWE and the Food Department, he not only ensured the smooth supply of essential foodstuffs did not break down in those exceptionally difficult days but also saw to it that these were made available to the people at the same prices as before the July ’83 events.

But what do we have here today is a super jumbo Cabinet of utterly inefficient square pegs in round holes. The Minister of Trade, with his entire set of dentures on show, claims he “will not allow the consumer to be taken for a ride by the traders”.

Consumers, at any rate, have been suffering in silence for many months now is something the rulers may probably not know since they are isolated in a different world of their own..

The latest ruse of the Government where the President himself offered to chair the Cabinet Cost of Living Committee has not and cannot bring prices down.

Bread, pol sambol, dried chillies – in addition to those items discussed here – have all virtually vanished from the table of even the poor and the marginalised. And what is the Government’s and the new Minister’s solution? Imports from India and Pakistan.

We do not need a costly Minister to do this for us. This can be done by a mere assistant secretary in the Trade Ministry – entailing no additional cost to the people. What is expected of the Minister is to protect the local farmers, growers and investors while ensuring a smooth flow of supplies at affordable levels. Above all, this should have been done with due regard to the lofty ideals of the ‘Rata Nagamu – Api Wawamu’ ideal of the ‘Chinthana’.

The Minister and the Government have failed the country very badly here. Imports can only bring short-term price relief. In the long term we cannot afford the foreign exchange that is required to feed 20 million people.

We have already pleaded with the visiting World Bank President to give us a further US$ 500 million as oxygen to the economy that is virtually in the ICU. All that caravan of utterly inefficient ministers do is smile sheepishly, visit their electorates by helicopter and otherwise engage in profligacy – protected by an army of ‘support’ vehicles and beefy security men.

Besides, imports of coconuts and chicken from India, onions from Pakistan also can bring various forms of diseases that can destroy our own agriculture and poultry.

That both countries are disease-ridden is well known and in addition both have gone through unprecedented floods in recent times.

It might be a lot better for the President and his brothers Basil and Gotabaya – claimed to be extremely able material – to get rid of these ministers and run the Government themselves. Or else, ministers expected to give a boost to increased production of rice, rubber and tea will all rather take it easy and chose the easy way out of imports. That will save the Exchequer a lot of money.

That can also rid the regime of a few unnecessary and embarrassing excess baggage. Weerawansa has promised to set himself on fire if BKM’s Panel from the UN arrives. They cannot be stopped despite the Professor’s threat not to issue them visas.

Dr. Mervyn– of Dutugemunu ancestry – can be given some farming land in the Angoda-Mulleriyawa area to grow coconuts, produce eggs and chicken meat. He will ask for a few Samurdhi animators to help him. Don’t forget to give him some dirachcha lanu – just in case.

The State of Food Insecurity in the World

THE number of undernourished people in the world remains unacceptably high at close to one billion in 2010 despite an expected decline – the first in 15 years. This decline is largely attributable to a more favourable economic environment in 2010 – particularly in developing countries – and the fall in both international and domestic food prices since 2008.

FAO estimates that a total of 925 million people are undernourished in 2010 compared with 1.023 billion in 2009. Most of the decrease was in Asia, with 80 million fewer hungry, but progress was also made in sub-Saharan Africa, where 12 million fewer people are going hungry. However, the number of hungry people is higher in 2010 than before the food and economic crises of 2008–09.

Key Messages

The number and the proportion of undernourished people have declined, but they remain unacceptably high. Undernourishment remains higher than before the food and economic crises, making it ever more difficult to achieve international hunger targets.

Countries in protracted crisis require special attention. They are characterized by long-lasting or recurring crises and limited capacity to respond, exacerbating food insecurity problems.

Improving food security in protracted crises requires going beyond short-term responses in order to protect and promote people’s livelihoods over the longer term. Appropriate responses must also recognize the different impacts of protracted crises on men and women.

Supporting institutions is key to addressing protracted crises. Local institutions, in particular, can help address food security problems in protracted crises, but they are often ignored by external actors.

Agriculture and the rural economy are key sectors for supporting livelihoods in protracted crises, but they are not properly reflected in aid flows. While agriculture accounts for a third of national income in countries in protracted crisis, the sector receives only 4 percent of humanitarian aid and 3 percent of development aid.

The current aid architecture needs to be modified to better address both immediate needs and the structural causes of protracted crises. Important areas of intervention (including social protection and risk reduction) are often underfunded.

Food assistance helps build the basis for long-term food security, and is particularly important in countries in protracted crisis. The use of a varied set of food assistance tools, complemented by innovations in how food is procured, will serve as a strong basis for food security in the longer term.

Broader social protection measures help countries cope with protracted crises and lay the foundation for long-term recovery. Key interventions include providing safety nets, insurance when appropriate, and services such as health and education. (Source: FAO)