Secret report an indictment of WB transparency, agenda

Editorial, NewAge, July 6, 2008. Dhaka, Bangladesh

In the wake of the global food crisis that has worsened beyond expectation, there has been a steadily growing din of expert opinions who suggest that the push for biofuels might have been a reason behind the soaring food prices on the back of consistently diminishing global food stocks. Neoliberal organisations and institutions typically aligned with US interests have, meanwhile echoed US president George Bush’s claims that the impact of biofuels on the global food crisis is negligible and it is growing demand for food in developing countries which is causing the shortage. That argument has now been dealt a deathblow by a report published in the UK-based Guardian newspaper on July 4, and reported across the world on Saturday, including in New Age.

According to the Guardian, a World Bank report completed in April this year and authored by Don Mitchell, one of its lead economists, had been hushed up because it concluded that biofuels had pushed up global food prices by 75 per cent. This damning report was allegedly kept under wraps by the World Bank to protect the US government from humiliation, particularly the US president, George W Bush.

In the last few years, the consumption of food-grains has risen dramatically outstripping the reasonable increase in demand for human or animal consumption. This excess demand could have been due to the marked rise of industrial demand for grains destined for the biofuel industry. Although such views were discarded on basis of some studies claiming that biofuels’ impact on food crisis was negligible, the recent report of a hushed-up study by the World Bank only confirms those apprehensions.

Furthermore, with a G8 meeting scheduled to be held in Japan in the coming week, it would surely cause further embarrassment for the US president who had previously said that one of the main reasons behind food crisis was the increasing demand for meat in the two emerging economies, namely China and India.

This exposes the fact that the World Bank, despite its claim for transparency and governance and the more recent position to stop corruption, is itself guilty of those things as it will evidently not even stop short of keeping its findings secret to protect the interests of certain countries that have long been accused of driving its often controversial agenda. It points out that the World Bank’s research, used to decide a number of lending programmes and economic policies could well have been subjected to similar screening which actually compromised the interests of poor countries like Bangladesh.

Whether beneficial for the people or not, the World Bank is heavily involved in development activities across the world and therefore this report and the decisions leading to its being hushed up should be investigated and its findings released to the public. The leading industrialised countries meeting in Japan for the G8 summit should also be asked to come away from their position of promoting the use of biofuels and contribute towards alleviating the prevailing food crisis.



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