Linking Wealth, Waste and Want

Ifrith Islam

Those who try to portray the planet as incapable of providing 18 thousand species and their subspecies including 7 billion human must have some ill motives. They do so apparently to make the poor people believe that the wealthy section is not responsible for their starvation and poverty or to divert the attention of the human and other rights activists working for the parity between the rich and the poor. Researchers claim that the mother earth is strong enough to provide food necessary to feed all the people, construction materials needed to build a flat for everyone and sufficient amount of cloth to clothe all of the sons and daughters of the earth.

But the world has over 1.2 billion people who go to bed without food. Another 2-3 billion remain half-fed failing to have access to other basic human needs. The world community can’t uphold human rights let alone the rights of animals, trees or inanimate objects. Since rights abuse had started hundreds of species, animals and plants have been disappearing from the earth. The world is losing its lush green, land fertility, birds’ habitat, animal and even fish population. The world had once beautiful bird Dodo and Hawi’i Mamo, golden toad and other kinds of species including fishes, plants and animals. Even Bangladesh had lots of species of fish and variety of rice which are extinct or endangered. They are no more seen as the water aggression of India account for the drying up of the vast tracts of land of Bangladesh and loss of animal and fish variety.

Who are to blame?

It is easy to blame the poor for their poverty and the extinct species for their unfitness. Some so called researchers (mostly financed by rich countries or multinational corporates) also come forward to give firm footing to the idea saying that the poor are poor first because they believe that they cannot become rich. This belief keeps them from breaking out of the poverty trap. These researchers also blame the poor that they don’t do anything to get out of vicious cycle of poverty because they feel comfortable being poor. The philosophy that it is a virtue to be poor is accounted for poverty in some countries. But these are the talks parroted by the Westerners. Nobody wants to remain poor and neither the extinct species were unfit.

Rich people’s consumerism owes an explanation of the poverty of the world people. What do we see if we look at the world’s resources? They are being concentrated with the multinational corporates in the industrialised Euro-American countries including India and China from Asia.

Who doesn’t know world resources amount to around $427 trillions. The whole humanity is mobilising this amount of money of which the crorepatis possess 10 percent. One and half a billion people are enjoying a lion share of world resources. Apart from the legal money in circulation there are lots of black money which is earned and deposited illegally. Apart from the black money in fixed deposits in local banks of countries concerned dishonest political leaders, businessmen and their aides deposit a large amount in Swiss Bank— a safe destination of black money in the Europe. These banks  sometimes freeze the accounts of both military and civil rulers of different countries like Egypt, Tunisia but the bank authorities are never reported to return those assets to the people who deserve.

Black money in Swiss banks — Swiss Banking Association report, 2006 details bank deposits in the territory of Switzerland by nationals of the following countries:

Top five

India—- $1456 billion
Russia—$ 470 billion
UK——-$390 billion
Ukraine- $100 billion
China—–$ 96 billion

Indians have $1456 billion in Swiss Bank. This amount is about 13 times larger than the country’s foreign debt. With this amount every Indian can get 50 thousand rupees. Once this huge amount of black money and property comes back to India, the entire foreign debt can be repaid in 24 hours. After paying the entire foreign debt, Indians will have surplus amount, almost 12 times larger than the foreign debt. If this surplus amount is invested in earning interest, the amount of the interest will be more than the annual budget of the Central government. So even if all the taxes are abolished, then also the Central government will be able to maintain the country very comfortably.
India with $1.4 trillion has more money in Swiss banks than rest of the world combined. It is one of the biggest loots witnessed by the mankind — the loot of the common man since 1947, by his brethren occupying public offices. It has been orchestrated by politicians, bureaucrats and some businessmen. The list is almost all-encompassing.

Same is the case with Bangladesh. Total amount of Black money of Bangladesh 10 to 38 per cent of GDP, says Transparency International, Bangladesh. According to Bangladesh Bank statistics up to June 2008 black money rose to Tk 43612 crore from Tk 14735cr. The government’s targeted GDP stood at Tk 8,99,670 crore or $123 billion in the upcoming 2011-12 fiscal year along with 7 per cent growth. Inside 40 years into the emergence of Bangladesh the number of people doubled but the number of crorepatis rose to 29537 (New Age). In 1971 people on this part of the then Pakistan fought against 22 crorepati families 21 of whom were from West Pakistan. They were the looters of the wealth of the common people of Bangladesh. The War of Independence was waged against those millionaires who milked money from the millions of marginalised people. Then the population was only 7 crore. In 1975 the number of crorepatis rose to 47 from one. According to the BB report in last ten years the country has witnessed the rise of 23518 crorepatis. You may ask why we are giving the data. We know our readers have right to know the fact that the more the millionaires the more the marginalised. The more the rich, the more the poor. You will also be surprised to know that 29 thousand crorepatis took 65 percent of the total loans of the Bangladesh. There are at present about 34.4 thousand loanees in the country. No wonder, they in Bangladesh loot with impunity and without any fear.

Bangladesh economists think that the number of rich people has increased, which has contributed substantially to the rising GNI, but unfortunately the increasing economic growth doesn’t necessarily result in the reduction of poverty.

The per capita Gross Domestic Product also increased to $755 from $687 in the same period. Resources are being centralised in Dhaka and Chittagong only. The other parts of the country are becoming more impoverished as the days go by. The ever-widening gap between the poor and the rich is the inevitable outcome of the pro-rich policies of Bangladesh.

Experts said that in spite of the rising rate of GNI the rate of inequality has increased because the number of rich people has soared while the incomes of most of the people are declining, and the number of people living below the poverty line is steadily increasing.

Subcontinent under lens

Pakistan is no exception to the trend its central bank shows that there are less than ten thousand crorepatis in the country which belies the fact. In fact these three countries were being ruled by some dynasties since the departure of British Raj. In Pakistan Bhutto dynasty, in India the Nehru and in Bangladesh the Sheikh Mujib dynasties have been ruling the countries for decades. With many characters in common the most conspicuous one is that they are all secularist. They have given rise to several lakh crorepatis in the countries with impunity. And these dynasties have aided the looters to be crorepatis, increasing the economic marginalisation. Another chief trait in common in them is that they are anti-Islamist in the core of their values. Overtly they are not against Islam but covertly they are deadly against Islamic hegemony, conspiring against Islamic movements constantly in collusion with their masters overseas particularly in the west. These dynasties are nothing but the local versions of British Rulers.

What are the outcomes of ever-expanding digital divide?

To understand the first fallout of ever-expanding digital divide we will look back at the sustained world food crisis of 1973-74 when some 40 million people in thirty countries including Bangladesh were at risk. The overall predicament derived from a combination of two long-term and five more immediate factors. The long-term issues were the relative neglect of rural development since 1950s, and the fact many countries were just starting to make the demographic transition. These were intensified by the short term problems: the coincidence of inclement weather, increased demand for meat northern countries, increase in oil prices, keeping the oil reserves unused by the Western countries like the US.

If the limited resources are circulated within the rich section of the world, the number of poor people is bound to rise, causing all the social crises. The number incidents of theft, robbery, carjacking, hijacking, snatching and pilfering and above all speed money transaction will go up. Malnutrition, low productivity for low-calorie intake by the unfed or half-fed people will fail in their professions. Even law and order situation will deteriorate with the spurt in crimes like eve-teasing, rape, depriving girls of their rights to property due to poverty. Tertiary crimes are linked to in most cases to the crimes committed in secondary stage originating from primary causes. Suppose one got a job in exchange of speed money. After the appointment the first thing the fresh employee can do is to resort to bribery because he had to manage the speed money he gave for job by selling his ancestral property or by borrowing from near and dear ones.

Cut your coat according to clothe?

Still we believe the popular proverb that goes: cut your coat according to clothe. Though the proverb entails the message to manage limited resources with unlimited want, the consumerism has given rise to alternative proverb that goes like ‘cut your clothe according to your needs’. That teaches to refuse that the world’s wealth is not short so try to mobilise as much resources as you need to cater to your voluptuousness and consumerism.

Waste not want not

Waste of foodstuffs is also highly responsible for starvation and poverty all over the world.

Approximately one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year gets lost or wasted, according to an FAO-commissioned study. The loss cost the world around 1.3 billion tonnes of food.

The document, Global Food Losses and Food Waste, was commissioned by FAO from the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK) for Save Food!, an international congress being held in Düsseldorf 16-17 May at the trade fair of the international packaging industry Interpack2011.
Other key findings include:

  • Industrialized and developing countries dissipate roughly the same quantities of food — respectively 670 and 630 million tonnes.
  • Every year, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food (222 million tonnes) as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (230 million tonnes).
  • Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.
  • The amount of food lost or wasted every year is equivalent to more than half of the world’s annual cereals crop (2.3 billion tonnes in 2009/2010).

Losses and waste

The report distinguishes between food loss and food waste. Food losses — occurring at the production, harvest, post-harvest and processing phases — are most important in developing countries, due to poor infrastructure, low levels of technology and low investment in the food production systems.

Food waste is more a problem in industrialized countries, most often caused by both retailers and consumers throwing perfectly edible foodstuffs into the trash. Per capita waste by consumers is between 95-115 kg a year in Europe and North America, while consumers in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia each throw away only 6-11 kg a year.

Total per capita food production for human consumption is about 900 kg a year in rich countries, almost twice the 460 kg a year produced in the poorest regions. In developing countries 40 percent of losses occur at post-harvest and processing levels while in industrialized countries more than 40 percent of losses happen at retail and consumer levels.

Food losses during harvest and in storage translate into lost income for small farmers and into higher prices for poor consumers, the report noted. Reducing losses could therefore have an “immediate and significant” impact on their livelihoods and food security.

Squandering resources

Food loss and waste also amount to a major squandering of resources, including water, land, energy, labour and capital and needlessly produce greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming and climate change.

The report offered a number of practical suggestions on how to reduce losses and waste.

In developing countries the problem is chiefly one of inadequate harvest techniques, poor post-harvest management and logistics, lack of suitable infrastructure, processing and packaging, and lack of marketing information which would allow production to better match demand.

The advice is therefore to strengthen the food supply chain by assisting small farmers to link directly to buyers. The private and public sectors should also invest more in infrastructure, transportation and in processing and packaging.

In middle- and high-income countries food losses and waste stem largely from consumer behaviour but also from lack of communication between different actors in the supply chain.

Over-emphasis on look

At retail level, large quantities of food are also wasted due to quality standards that over-emphasize appearance.  Surveys show that consumers are willing to buy produce not meeting appearance standards as long as it is safe and tastes good. Customers thus have the power to influence quality standards and should do so, the report said.

Selling farm produce closer to consumers, without having to conform to supermarkets’ quality standards, is another suggestion. This could be achieved through farmers’ markets and farm shops.

Good use for food that would otherwise be thrown away should be found. Commercial and charity organizations could work with retailers to collect, and then sell or use products that have been disposed of but are still good in terms of safety, taste and nutritional value.

Moratorium on consumerism and no to hedonism

‘Eat drink and make merry’ is another proverb the western philosophy, inspiring a large number of them to resort to eating a lot, drinking profusely and merrymaking.

Consumers in rich countries are generally encouraged to buy more food than they need. “Buy three, pay two” promotions are one example, while the oversized ready-to-eat meals produced by the food industry are another. Restaurants frequently offer fixed-price buffets that spur customers to heap their plates.

Generally speaking, consumers fail to plan their food purchases properly, the report found. That means they often throw food away when “best-before” dates expired.

Education in schools and political initiatives are possible starting points to changing consumer attitudes, the report suggested. Rich-country consumers should be taught that throwing food away needlessly is unacceptable.

They should also be made aware that given the limited availability of natural resources it is more effective to reduce food losses than increase food production in order to feed a growing world population predicted to be 7 billion in October 2011.
A separate report on food packaging for developing countries also prepared for the Save Food! congress noted that appropriate packaging is a key factor impacting on losses occurring at almost every stage of the food chain.

Have you ever had any crisis of money at least for some times? As a human you must have faced funds crisis in life. What do you do then? A moratorium I am sure if you don’t want to borrow. Austerity measure is a healthy human nature which borrowing or begging is certainly not. When a person falls in financial crisis, resorts to austerity measures. So do a family, community or a country. And when you have shortage of resources you are not in a position to waste. So the rich section of the world should come forward to reduce poverty by putting an end to consumerism, waste and plundering of property of the poor nations under the cover of World Bank, IMF, ADB, WTO and even the UN.

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