Thursday, October 23, 2008

Clinton praises Bush on food aid

On World Food Day that was held on October 16th, former US President Bill Clinton admitted getting the issue of food security for poor nations wrong.

A lot of aid that goes into poor countries is food. But that makes it even harder for the small farmers of poor countries to stay profitable. In recent years, imports of food to poor nations rose, making them even more dependent on aid. If aid was ever removed, God forbid, the poor nations would be unable to sustain themselves.

Former President Clinton actually praised our current President Bush for getting food security right, but he has been stopped by politics in the US. In this Associated Press article, writer Charles Hanley has quotes from President Clinton on improving aid effectiveness to the developing world.

Former President Clinton told a U.N. gathering Thursday that the global food crisis shows 'we all blew it, including me,' by treating food crops 'like color TVs' instead of as a vital commodity for the world's poor.

Addressing a high-level event marking Oct. 16's World Food Day, Clinton also saluted President Bush _ 'one thing he got right' _ for pushing to change U.S. food aid policy. He scolded the bipartisan coalition in Congress that killed the idea of making some aid donations in cash rather than in food.

Clinton criticized decades of policymaking by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and others, encouraged by the U.S., that pressured Africans in particular into dropping government subsidies for fertilizer, improved seed and other farm inputs as a requirement to get aid. Africa's food self-sufficiency declined and food imports rose.

Now skyrocketing prices in the international grain trade _ on average more than doubling between 2006 and early 2008 _ have pushed many in poor countries deeper into poverty.

'Food is not a commodity like others,' Clinton said. 'We should go back to a policy of maximum food self-sufficiency. It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves.'

He noted that food aid from wealthy nations could itself be a tool for bolstering agriculture in poor countries. Canada, for example, requires that 50 percent of its aid go as cash _ not as Canadian grain _ to buy crops grown locally in Africa and other recipient countries.

U.S. law, however, requires that almost all U.S. aid be American-grown food, which benefits U.S. farmers but undercuts local food crops. Bush proposed earlier this year that 25 percent of future U.S. aid be given in cash.

'A bipartisan coalition (in Congress) defeated him,' Clinton said. 'He was right and both parties that defeated him were wrong.'

Clinton also criticized the heavy U.S. reliance on corn to produce ethanol, which increased demand for the crop and helped drive up grain prices worldwide.

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