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One of the mysteries of development economics is why more people in subsistence agriculture don't migrate to cities where incomes are much, much higher. New data suggests one answer: when they move, their incomes may not go up as much as we thought.
This is a joint posting with Cindy Prieto
On February 13, 2009, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing food vouchers to 120,000 "cash-strapped residents" in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso -- representing almost 10 percent of the capital city's population. The distribution program is part of WFP's efforts to mitigate the impact of high food prices in the country, which have persisted after an abundant harvest. As the Country Director for WFP in Burkina Faso explained, "Sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food."
Yesterday, the Obama Administration released top-line numbers of its FY10 budget request. Of the whopping $3.6 trillion budget, $51.7 billion was allotted to the International Affairs Budget, an estimated 9.5% above the comparable amount for FY09.
This is a joint posting with Rebecca Schutte
Is purchasing food aid locally the answer to higher global food prices and the inefficiencies associated with imported food aid? The World Food Program (WFP), the Bill and Melinda Gates and Howard G. Buffett Foundations seem to think so. While donors and international organizations have been purchasing food aid in recipient countries for years, the idea got a new boost in late September with the "Purchase for Progress (P4P)" initiative. The idea is simple: Rather than import food aid from the U.S. or Europe, WFP will purchase food commodities for distribution within the same country or region. As Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, explained, "Purchase for Progress is a win-win -- we help our beneficiaries who have little or no food and we help local farmers who have little or no access to markets where they can sell their crops." The program will be piloted in twenty-one countries in 2008/2009, fourteen of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.
Earlier this year, with the food crisis in the daily headlines, the world's leaders made promises -- first in Rome at an FAO gathering in June and then at the G-8 summit in Japan the following month -- to make a concerted effort to provide relief for the world's poor.
Despite showing leadership in opposing a pork-laden farm bill, the administration failed to do so yesterday. EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied Texas Governor Rick Perry's request to cut in half the government-mandated level for ethanol in gasoline to help reduce soaring corn prices.
Governor Rick Perry of Texas, representing a major livestock-producing state hammered by rising feed costs, has petitioned the Environmental Policy Agency to suspend half of the mandated level for blending ethanol in gasoline. The EPA has the authority under the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to suspend all or part of the mandate for up to a year if there is a "significant renewable feedstock disruption or other market circumstance" and the administrator is supposed to respond to Governor Perry's petition by July 24.
Once again the G8 has come up tragically short on climate change and a host of urgent problems affecting poor people in developing countries. The good news is that they are at least discussing the right topics. The first Hokkaido G8 document, on the World Economy spills lots of ink on relations between rich and developing economies, including for example, reaffirmation of support for the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and John Podesta, former chief of staff to President Clinton and CEO of the Center for American Progress, have urged rich world leaders assembled for the G8 summit in Japan to take action on the global food crisis, including rapid release of Japanese rice stockpiles imported mostly from the US. In an Op-Ed in today's Boston Globe they write:
A report in the Financial Times by John Thornhill leads with a remarkable quote from French President Nicolas Sarkozy warning the EU that he would block a proposed World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on agriculture that would reduce European production incentives: