Members of the All
India Trade Union Congress burn President Bush in effigy,
in Calcutta, May
7. Indians have lambasted Bush for saying that India's new-
is partly to blame for rising food pricess.
The International Business Times, India
In Defense of Bush's Gaffe on Rising Food Prices
"Being well-informed or
choosing words carefully are not his specialty. … Let's be forgiving to the
U.S. President. … Let us stop pointing fingers at one another and receive
Bush's remark with a pinch of salt and a hearty laugh."
By Surojit Chatterjee
May 7, 2008
- The International Business Times - Original Article (English)
Let's admit it. Bush
committed a gaffe when he said that the growing middle class in India has
triggered an increased demand for "better nutrition," which in turn
has led to higher food prices.
Bush said [on May 2]:
"There are 350 million people in India who are classified as middle class.
That's bigger than America. Their middle class is larger than our entire
population," said Bush. "And when you start getting wealth, you start
demanding better nutrition and better food. And so demand is high, and that
causes the price to go up."
Indian political leaders were
up in arms after the remark, and proceeded to shred the U.S. President to
pieces - verbally of course.
"George Bush has never
been known for his knowledge of economics. And he has just proved once again
how comprehensively wrong he is," said Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Commerce.
"It is preposterous for anyone
to say that global food crisis, including the crisis in America, is because
Indians are eating more. It is needless to say what the Indians get to eat or
what they (Americans) eat. This only shows how he has lost his senses,"
said West Bengal's leftist Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee , adding that
Bush's remark was nothing more than a "cruel joke."
Interestingly, none of
India's political leaders, who were so quick to fly off the handle, stopped to
challenge Bush about how he arrived at his figures.
Last year a study by the
McKinsey Global Institute estimated that India's middle class numbered
only 50 million out of a population of 1.1 billion.
India's National Council for
Applied Economic Research also estimates that there were 56 million people in
households earning $4,400 to $21,800 a year, which it defines as middle class.
So where did Bush get his
extra 300 million or so middle class Indians?
Perhaps also - from the
National Council for Applied Economic Research, which reports that there are,
"220 million "aspiring Indians," living in households earning
between $2,000 and $4,400 a year, who can afford to buy a motorbike, a
refrigerator and a television."
Together that makes a
"consuming class" almost as large as the population of the United
Perhaps that's what Bush
meant. And perhaps Indian leaders should keep quiet in this regard, because,
like Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary and
Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Nuclear Issue, they must also see that Bush's
remark had a positive aspect to it as well. "It (the remark) is a
recognition of the distance India has traveled as a result of its successful
economic development," Saran said, adding that Bush had spoken of the
growing prosperity of India when mentioning the country's middle class, which
is now bigger than the entire population of the U.S.
A Hindu priest
offers prayers as a worker at the Akshya Patra kitchen moves a container
of cooked rice, for a meal for prisoners in Bangalore's central jail, May
But one thing is true: Bush
seems to have forgotten that Indians consume far, far less food and fuel than
the average middle-class American.
Data collected by the U.N.
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) shows that the consumption of cereals
(wheat, rice, maize, corn and so on) is growing far more rapidly in the U.S.
than in India or China.
According to a global food
market report put out by the FAO, the consumption of cereals by India is
projected to have grown 2.17 percent from 193.1 million tonnes
in 2006-07 to 197.3 million tonnes in 2007-08, while
in China it has risen 1.8 percent from 382.2 million tonnes
to 389.1 million tonnes.
In the same period,
consumption of cereals in the U.S., the world's largest economy, has been
projected to have grown 11.81 percent from 277.6 million tonnes
to 310.4 million tonnes. However, a large part of this
spike is said to have been caused by the country's new-found appetite for
bio-fuels made from corn.
With crude oil prices rising
to over $115 a barrel, it was recently reported that the U.S. has utilized 30
million tonnes of corn to make bio-fuel. The FAO data
show that the usage of corn in the U.S. to make bio-fuel increased
two-and-a-half times between 2000 and 2006.
The FAO also noted that
although India accounts for a sixth of the world population, the country is
estimated to have consumed 9.37 percent of world cereals in 2007-08, almost the
same as 9.36 percent in the previous year.
The share consumed by the
U.S., the FAO report said, has gone up from 13.46 percent in 2006-07 to 14.74
percent today. China's share, it is worth noting, is projected to have come
down from 18.53 percent to 18.48 percent.
One can't deny that globally,
food prices are spiraling. One also can't deny that globally, food consumption
is increasing, be it in India or in the US.
If one is to analyze Bush's
remark critically, one could conclude that he was being condescending in his
remarks and is trying to fuel xenophobia by saying that the problem of
increasing food prices is someone else's problem, and distracting the American
public into believing that rising food (and oil) prices are because of Indians.
For who can deny that although India's oil consumption may have risen, the U.S.
continues to be the largest consumer of oil? Similarly, who can deny that the
United States tops the list of nations emitting the most greenhouse gas (both
nationally and on a per capita basis) - which results in global warming and
which in turn causes unnatural flooding and/or drought and limited agricultural
One might be tempted to
subscribe to the communist view that Bush is trying to continue the myth of
globalization - to make it look like globalization is bringing benefits to
countries like India when in fact, it isn't.
But there's a kernel of truth
in Bush's remark. One can't deny that inflation in India has indeed shot up to
a three and a half year high. And one cannot just brush aside White House
spokesman Scott Stanzel's explanation of Bush's
remark: "The point I think that was to be made is that as you increase
your standard of living, the food that you eat - it can venture more into meats
that require more commodities to feed the livestock, which uses more of those
commodities and it drives up the price."
True, Bush's remark has come
at a most inopportune time. The problem of rising food prices requires a global
response and Bush's remark could provoke food-producing countries to further
restrict trade in agriculture. From that point of view, the remark should have
And let's not forget that
Bush is famous his gaffes and malapropisms, and that this remark will likely
only go down as one of a library if "Bushisms."
Being well-informed or choosing words carefully are not his specialty. Many
Americans mock his intelligence, and his gaffes are as frequent as his
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
In 2004, Bush was heard
saying to an Iraqi national: "I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave
Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein."
And who could forget Bush
comment to Army General Ray Odierno, "And so,
General, I want to thank you for your service. And I appreciate the fact that
you really snatched defeat out of the jaws of those who are trying to defeat us
in Iraq," during their meeting in Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008.
Let's not spill any blood over
Bush's remarks. With riots taking place around the world due to rising food
prices and food shortages, enough blood has already been spilt.
Posted by WORLDMEETS.US
Let's be forgiving to the
U.S. President who will soon leave the White House. Let us stop pointing
fingers at one another and receive Bush's remark with a pinch of salt and a
As for the India's communist
leaders whose favorite pastime is "Bush bashing," here's a word of
advice: please emulate not only China's political ideology but also that
nation's economic policy. For had China not embraced globalization the way it
has, it wouldn't be so close to becoming the world's leading economy.
Hindustan Times, India
Up In Arms
Over Bush Food Gaffe
[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US May 8, 7:43pm]