West blasted over aid to Africa

May 9, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, May 9 – US economist Jeffrey Sachs blasted the West Thursday for responding to the world food crisis by shipping "unsustainable" aid, and said just 10 billion dollars could double Africa’s food production.

"Ten billion and we could double Africa’s food production within the next few years," Sachs told reporters during in Nairobi, where he met President Mwai Kibaki.

"A real game-changer is feasible right now, what we’re calling the African ‘green revolution’," he said, pointing out that 10 billion dollars represents 10 dollars per person in the rich world or just five days of Pentagon spending.

In recent months, soaring basic commodity prices — caused by a combination of speculation, climate change and diversion of crops towards biofuels, sparked worldwide food riots.

Sachs, who is credited with "saving" the economies of Bolivia, Poland and other countries and is often regarded as the most influential economist of the past decade — warned that the current inflation was not about to be reversed and blamed the West for years of deeply-flawed policies.

"If we want to get enough physical food, we have to not have a gradual uptake, we actually need to produce a lot more food," said Sachs, who also heads the Earth Institute.

"And that’s what Malawi has done, it went from 1.6 million metric tons to 3.2 million in one year and it’s sustained that for two years or more and we need basically to do the same thing across society," he added.

Amid rising global concerns that tens if not hundreds of millions more people could soon find themselves unable to feed themselves due to the food crisis, rich countries have stepped in with fresh pledges.

"But what is the usual donor response? Send food aid — the least sustainable of all forms of aid," Sachs complained.

"President George Bush has promised 700 million dollars of food aid, but its aid food shipped from the United States and it’s extremely expensive. Shipping has been in recent years more than half of the total cost," he argued.

Sachs is campaigning for the creation of a "global fund for small grower agriculture", mirrored on the system used to operate the global fund for AIDS, TB and malaria.


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