Institutions and Competition

BRICS and food security

May 8, 2015

Good idea, bad timing?

It's not clear whether the world's worst drought in over a century provided impetus for the agriculture ministers of the BRICS nations to gather in Brasilia in March and launch a manifesto designed to make the group a key player in the global food security regime. But they did. Now the world is waiting.


From a moral and business ethics perspective the effort makes sense and can add value to the BRICS brand.


But success depends on China, India and Brazil, who are impacted by drought and infrastructure problems that step on their economic performance. And Russia is dealing with a sanctions regime that includes food, orchestrated by Washington and its European allies. 


BRICS food security. A slow rollout?

It's one thing to move cautiously to manage risks. It's something else to move slowly due to political differences.


Madame Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund has already pressed the BRICS New Development Bank to start generating loans in a tight money global economy ahead of its schedule. But there are no indications that the BRICS bank, still not fully funded and masking the lingering controversy over being headquartered in China, will open its loan window prior to the middle of next year.


The BRICS food security initiative, meanwhile, is providing job creation for “Sherpa-style” experts and bureaucrats who should be more agile than their American and European counterparts.  But it could be decades, if at all, before the organization becomes a major player in the dynamics of the food security set-up. Food security and the BRICS may be realigned or rebranded or just fade away to accommodate changes brought on by younger leaders and online social media.



The United States. A pittance for food and water infrastructure

In the United States food security is “at risk.”   There are debilitating droughts in the Sacramento Valley agricultural region and the strategic water network that provides hydroelectric power and water to much of the West via the Colorado River. Bill Gates shrugs it off doing a photo op drinking a glass of water made from reprocessed human waste.


The water level at Lake Mead, formed by the Hoover Dam near Las Vegas, Nevada is at an all-time low.And infrastructure spending, which has been neglected by the Obama administration is unlikely to improve during his remaining “lame duck” period.


At the state level, in California, for example, the Los Angeles Times online, and other sources, report that the state legislature has approved a $1 billion bill to fight drought, But two thirds of that funding has been cannibalized from previously funded programs. The $230 million in “new money” to combat drought is equal to the amount the New York Yankees pay one of their top Major League Baseball stars.


The probability of “food security” and infrastructure becoming an issue during the 2016 presidential campaign is as unlikely as the impending economic crisis- which was known to financial world insiders in 2007- becoming an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign.


Is the UN seeding a cloud of mistrust?

Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations, has been propagating his view via online media that the “have” nations can afford to feed the “have nots.” But is his post of global voluntarism really what “food security” is all about? 


It smarts of the fuzzy global governance logic inherent in the “Kickstarter” approach Moon and his allies at the World Bank, NGOs and other Western interests used in an effort to raise funds for the Ebola crisis. But that effort did not achieve Moon's ambitious funding goals. Most of the heavy lifting and educating has been done by the US Africa Command.


Competing and uncoordinated sets of statistics regarding world hunger and “food security” produced by UN agencies are organized- wittingly or unwittingly-- to favor the agendas and funding needs of those entities. The World Health Organiaztion tells a different story than UNESCO, for example. Who do you trust as your favorite "food security" storyteller? 


It is no different in the United States, where “foreign aid” and food aid programs relate only to organizations that provide the assistance and the nations that receive the benefits. There is no “big picture” about global “food security” except what one finds on social media. A central records keeping organization like the U.S. Energy Administration provides to track world oil production would help.


Until that happens defense spending will continue to drive the global economy and those human bengs Frantz Fanon called the wretched of the earth will become more hungry and more angry.


Considering that McDonalds is losing billions and struggling to reinvent itself maybe it's time for “food security” proponents to do the same thing. 


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