Monthly Archives: August 2013

Subsidized food aid on the horizon for millions of India’s poor

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Beneath outward signs of prosperity, India is still one of the most malnourished nations on the planet. According to the 2012 Global Hunger Index from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), India — despite being one of the world’s largest producers of food — ranks as low 65 on a list of 79 countries on the index. It is near the top of the list of countries for underweight children under the age of five.

A $22 billion-a-year welfare scheme passing its way through Indian Parliament aims to sell subsidized wheat and rice to 67% of its 1.2 billion people. The scheme will massively expand an existing program that provides food to 218 million people.

Under the National Food Security Bill, 75% of rural dwellers and 50% of the urban population would get five kilograms of grain per month at the subsidized prices of 3 rupees (US5 cents) for rice and 2 rupees per kilo for wheat and 1 rupee per kilo for coarse grains to be fixed for a period of three years.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers would get a maternity benefit payment of 6,000 rupees (US$99), while children aged six months to 14 years would get take-home rations or be provided with hot cooked food.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, part of the Ministry of Agriculture, said in a report that the cost of India’s food program is likely to balloon to 6.82 trillion rupees ($126 billion) in its first three years, meaning the government would have to budget almost double its projected food subsidy each year.

Indian political and economic analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta said he believed the positive impact of the Food Bill would likely to outweigh its problems in the long term, saying that India would be forced to address problems with its distribution system.

“Indian society has always been an unequal society historically. The food inflation that this country has witnessed in the recent past has made an already unequal society even more unequal,” he said. “Simply put, the poor spend a larger proportion of their income on food.”

“The fact is that in a country like ours with 1.2 billion people, of which anywhere between 200-400 million people are incredibly poor, to have a scheme of cheap food distribution is something that I as an Indian favor.”


US Military Aid to Egypt being reassessed

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When Egypt’s first democratically elected president was tossed out earlier this year, the White House stopped short of calling it a coup. Doing so would have forced an end to the $1.3 billion that the U.S. sends in military aid every year — and changed the course of its relationship with its strongest Arab ally in the region.

But that was before Wednesday, when the military-led interim government stormed two camps full of former President Mohamed Morsy’s supporters. More than 525 people were killed and 3,717 wounded in the bloodiest day in Egypt’s recent history, officials there said.

Will the carnage in Egypt change the U.S. policy toward the most populous Arab country? The short answer: We’ll have to wait and see.

To understand why, one needs to appreciate the importance of Egypt in U.S. foreign policy. The United States helps Egypt because it’s one of only two Arab countries — along with Jordan — that made peace with Israel. In return, Egypt gets a billion dollars each year of U.S. taxpayer money for military and civilian programs. No other country except Israel gets more. That aid buys Washington an ally to depend on in a turbulent region.

It’s not just the peace process and regional stability that the United States is interested in. Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a crucial sea route used by more than 4% of the world’s oil traffic and 8% of all seaborne trade. So far, the canal is running smoothly. But a disruption there could end up hitting Americans in the pocketbook, not to mention impact the safe passage of U.S. military ships and equipment.

Then there’s business for American companies, intelligence cooperation — and the military relationship. “The reality is that the Egyptian military has not only been a source of stability for the United States in an otherwise turbulent Middle East, but it has also been a cash cow,” said Khairi Abaza, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Currently, the Egyptian military relies on U.S. military equipment, training and services. This reliance means that Egypt is essentially a client of the U.S. military complex, and aid money is in fact re-injected back into the U.S. economy.”

“The United States faces a really tough dilemma now,” Middle East analyst Robin Wright with the Wilson Center said. “What to do about the most important country in the Arab world, the cornerstone of the peace process, a country that has received over $30 billion in U.S. aid since the peace process began in the late 1970s.”


Defining Humanitarian Aid

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Within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is a committee of 24 members of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), these being: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and European institutions.

Under OECD criteria, humanitarian aid has very clear cut-off points. For example,

  • “Disaster preparedness” excludes longer-term work such as prevention of floods or conflicts.
  • Reconstruction relief and rehabilitation” includes repairing pre-existing infrastructure but excludes longer-term activities designed to improve the level of infrastructure.
  • The term “global humanitarian assistance” is used to describe humanitarian response

International humanitarian aid” (or “international humanitarian response”) is used to describe the contributions of:

  • international governments
  • individuals, private foundations, trusts, private companies and corporations.

Private contributions included those raised by humanitarian organizations, including NGOs, the UN and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

Source: Global Humanitarian Assistance