Africa: The Hunger Factory (II) – modern horsemen of the apocalypse
MADRID — While the unprecedented tragedy of global hunger is often all too quickly – almost exclusively – blamed on the current proxy war in Ukraine, other major causes remain hidden in plain sight.
Like the legend of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the moderns are a mixture of conjugated causes: inequality; speculation; debt and the crushing effects of the climate emergency.
Following the IPS article: Inequality kills one person every four seconds, explaining how deadly inequality is and how it contributes to the death of at least 21,300 people every day – that’s one person every four seconds.
Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as in 23 years. Those in the food and energy sectors have seen their fortunes increase by a billion dollars every two days. Food and energy prices have reached their highest levels in decades. And 62 new food billionaires were created
And also to its reporting on how inequality is tightening its grip on the most vulnerable, a number of key facts emerge from the precise findings of one of the leading bodies dedicated to tackling inequality: Oxfam International.
Here are some of the key findings from the May 2022 Profiting from Pain report, compiled by this global movement of people working with more than 4,100 partner organizations, allies and communities in more than 90 countries:
Billionaires have seen their fortunes increase as much in 24 months as in 23 years. Those in the food and energy sectors have seen their fortunes increase by a billion dollars every two days. Food and energy prices have reached their highest levels in decades. And 62 new food billionaires were created.
The combined crises of COVID-19, rising inequality and rising food prices could push up to 263 million people into extreme poverty in 2022. This equates to one million people every 33 hours. At the same time, a new billionaire has been hit on average every 30 hours during the pandemic.
Speculation is the likely engine of global markets, which is driven by dominant neoliberal economics.
COVID-19 has hit an already deeply unequal world, adds Oxfam. Decades of neoliberal economic policies have wrested public services from private ownership and spurred the movement toward massive concentration of corporate power and large-scale tax avoidance.
“These policies have deliberately eroded workers’ rights and reduced tax rates for corporations and the wealthy. They have also opened up the environment to levels of exploitation far beyond what our planet can sustain.”
As COVID-19 spread, central banks injected trillions of dollars into economies around the world, in an effort to keep the global economy afloat, the report continues. This was essential as it prevented a total economic collapse.
“Nevertheless, in turn, this has dramatically driven up the price of assets, and with it the net worth of the billionaires and the asset-owning classes. A huge increase in billionaire wealth has been the direct by-product of this injection cash.”
Food, energy, pharmaceutical and technological monopolies
In addition to the skyrocketing wealth of billionaires, during the pandemic there has also been a windfall of profits in the food, energy, pharmaceutical and technology sectors, says Oxfam, adding that corporate monopolies are particularly prevalent in these sectors, and billionaires who hold large stakes in the companies within them have seen their wealth swell even further.
“Meanwhile, excessive corporate profits and power are contributing to higher prices; in the United States, for example, expanding corporate profits are estimated to be responsible for 60% of the increase in inflation.”
Global energy subsidies
The United Nations Global Crisis Response Group recently referred to “block energy subsidies.” In fact, politicians are subsidizing fossil fuels with six trillion dollars in just one year. And they are expected to increase that figure to nearly seven trillion by 2025.
“While block energy subsidies can help in the short term, in the longer term they deepen inequality, further exacerbate the climate crisis and do not mitigate the immediate blow of the rising cost of living as much as cash transfers. targeted,” said report author George Gray Molina.
The report shows that “energy subsidies disproportionately benefit the wealthiest people, with more than half of the benefits of a universal energy subsidy favoring the wealthiest 20% of the population”.
Record profits: 100 billion dollars in just 3 months
“As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, soaring energy prices are compounding an existential cost-of-living crisis for hundreds of millions of people,” the Crisis Response Group warned on August 3, 2022. (GCRG) on Food of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. , Energy and Finance.
Despite this alarming situation, major oil and gas companies recently announced record profits, which UN chief António Guterres called “immoral”.
“The combined profits of the largest energy companies in the first quarter of this year amount to nearly $100 billion. I urge governments to tax these excessive profits and use the funds to support the most vulnerable people in these times. tough times,” he said.
Global debt is borrowed by governments, corporations and individuals, and it is reaching dangerously high levels. In 2021, global debt hit a record $303 trillion, according to the Institute of International Finance, a global financial industry association.
This is a further jump from the record global debt in 2020 of US$226 trillion, as reported by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its Global Debt Database, which explains that It was the largest one-year increase in debt since World War II. .
A paper produced for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum says low-income countries and households are suffering the most from high levels of debt, experts warn.
Foreign debt is the part of a country’s debt that is borrowed from foreign lenders through commercial banks, governments or international financial institutions, they explain.
4. Climate catastrophe
The dangerous global climate emergency did not begin with the war in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.
In fact, it started long decades ago and has been at the center of the global scientific community, whose loud and noisy warnings have not had the required echo in the many successive and very expensive summits and meetings.
One of the harshest consequences of man-made climate catastrophe is drought. Indeed, drought is now raging in all regions, including the most industrialized ones, leading to a great loss of harvests, therefore less food supply, increasing market speculation.
All this on top of the dominant profit-making system of intensive agriculture, industrial monocultures, distribution chains, depletion of forests for more agriculture, cattle ranches for the meat trade, etc.