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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-

found prosperity 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

 

India - The International Business Times - Original Article (English)

President Bush: Rarerly has an American chief executive like a steak more ...

WHITE HOUSE VIDEO: In Missiouri, President Bush discusses energy, food; India comments at 00:40:00, May 2, 01:02:57 RealVideo

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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 States.

 

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 6.

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 production?

 

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 been avoided.

 

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 clumsiness.

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 hearty laugh.

 

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.

 

SEE ALSO:

 

Hindustan Times, India
Indians Up In Arms
Over Bush Food Gaffe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US May 8, 7:43pm]