Saturday, June 07, 2008

Global Governance Strained

From the Christian Science Monitor - Food crisis: A daily quest for bread in Cairo;
Egyptians are living through the worst food crisis in a generation, caught in a storm of stagnant wages, rising global food prices, rampant corruption, and a quickly advancing inflation rate that hit 16.4 percent in May. The price of basic commodities like bread, wheat, rice, and cooking oil has doubled since this time last year – prompting bread riots.

The riots are why Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was a featured speaker among 40 government leaders at the three-day UN food summit that concluded Thursday in Rome. Mr. Mubarak called for an end to subsidies for biofuels because they are creating a "hazardous distortion to the present system of agricultural trade."

While Mubarak pushed for changes abroad, his government struggles to meet the basic needs of Egyptians.

Under a government order, bakers now start work at 4 a.m. to produce enough bread for everyone waiting in the city's bread lines, says Yasser Shalaby, who owns a bakery with his brother Said in another part of Imbaba.

Once at work, they labor under the careful watch of government supervisors. The supervisors ensure they bake through the day, but there are allegations that they participate in theft and smuggling as often as they prevent it.

Bread line violence in other parts of the city has led to brawls in which at least a dozen people have died since January.

Bread shortages have eased since government measures went into effect but inflation and high prices show no signs of ending anytime soon.