World is ‘on course’ for halving extreme poverty


Most countries will fall short of nutrition, health, education and other global development goals established in 2000 at the United Nations Millennium Summit, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) said today [April 8].

This year marks the halfway point between when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were set when they are due, in 2015.

Although the world is ‘on course’ for achieving the first MDG goal of halving extreme poverty, this progress is ‘uneven’ as Sub-Saharan Africa is falling far short, the IMF/WB Global Monitoring report found.

Meanwhile, the world is struggling to meet goals for reducing child and maternal mortality, primary school completion, nutrition and sanitation. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are falling especially short in these areas.

Read it here.

Adding to the cost of nutrition are substantial increases in the price of grains. Paul Krugman explains why prices have increased:

First, there’s the march of the meat-eating Chinese — that is, the growing number of people in emerging economies who are, for the first time, rich enough to start eating like Westerners. Since it takes about 700 calories’ worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, this change in diet increases the overall demand for grains.

Second, there’s the price of oil. Modern farming is highly energy-intensive: a lot of B.T.U.’s go into producing fertilizer, running tractors and, not least, transporting farm products to consumers. With oil persistently above $100 per barrel, energy costs have become a major factor driving up agricultural costs.

High oil prices, by the way, also have a lot to do with the growth of China and other emerging economies. Directly and indirectly, these rising economic powers are competing with the rest of us for scarce resources, including oil and farmland, driving up prices for raw materials of all sorts.

The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

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