Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No battery chicken

I want to tell all those who would want to have us believe that the changes in the Arab World and the protests in Egypt can be solely traced to food prices are wrong. Panem and circences (bread and games, or carbonated drinks and satellite tv) can only work for a while. People need freedom, equity, justice, fairness, freedom. They want to participate in public decision making and want to have a say in managing their lives. To say it is just about food is patronizing and hold obvious racists undertones: we in the West protest for freedom, but you do it for bread. I can actually provide proof of what I am saying: in Egypt as in Tunisia, it is not only the poor and the hungry who are in the street. The middle class is represented en force, and these are not hungry for bread. It may come to some as a shock, but we are humans and not battery chicken.

It is hardly surprising the Egyptian people are angry: the country is one of the world's most vulnerable to rising food prices. Food constitutes more than 40% of Egypt's total final consumption—one of the highest levels among all emerging markets, according to data compiled by Absolute Strategy Research. The same is true of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Worryingly, other countries where food is more than 40% of consumption include Pakistan and Ukraine, both nuclear states. The sharp rise in food prices in these countries has inevitably a much greater impact on living standards than the U.S., U.K. or Japan, where food is just 7.2%, 8.7% and 14.3% respectively. 

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