Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The touch ...

It's a simple world for many folks.  

We did that. 

Without a second thought, Wall Street plunged the world into the Great Recession, and along with the ethanol industry, pushed people across the line to starvation the following year.  The U.S. and U.K are complicit as is the E.U. in activities with similar unmitigated risk and impact.

This is globalization.  We didn't mean to, but we've connected this father in Africa and billions more to the world marketplace.  When our Wall Street marketplace hiccups, prices respond around the world sometimes, and our African friends suffer.  For them, the fluctuating price of a commodity like corn meal can have a significant impact.  They spend perhaps half of their budget on corn meal.  If the price changes, they have little capacity to adjust.

For an actual case example, a family with 6 members has an aggregate income of about $95 per month; $45 is dedicated to corn meal, the staple for everyone here.  When the price rises as it did, they can't afford to eat.  The dilemma leaves the family undernourished for more than a year before they can adjust.  They cannot afford school fees, so the children lose another year. 

In the lowest quintile for income, they were coping; they were balanced however precariously on the good side of the survival line.  Then the developed world reached over and touched their community ever so slightly, and people went hungry and began to die.  The economic recovery for the poor in their part of the world will take perhaps a decade, but you don't recover the years lost.

Now, in the west, we're not terribly afraid of such things, of what the economy will do; annoyed, perhaps, but not afraid.  Perhaps we didn't really want to retire anyway.

Similarly, we're not overly fearful of climate change, government upheaval, political flailing, ...

Westerners are not particularly afraid because they live up in the rarefied atmosphere of the developed world where they're insulated from the worst of such things.  Not that they deserved having it easier than others might, and certainly not that there was any superior worth in their lineage while another fell short.  They're fortunate, extraordinarily blessed.  And protected from minor changes.

Our friends in Africa have no such protection, no such defense.  They're more wary than I of big government, big marketplaces, of big countries with good intentions.  Their experience so far is mixed.

Welcome to the 21st century and the reality of globalization.   Either we'll refine the way we'll do things globally or "bull in a china shop" will take on a whole new meaning.

While many aspects of the global market are beneficial, it's still a moderately risky and volatile process.  Much of the world has benefited from globalization with notable reductions in area poverty, but sub-Saharan Africa has not.  International discussions with such concerns in mind are barely begun.  Theories abound but for the moment, facts remain scant, and everything we touch carries a measure of risk for others.

A Sovereign Fiscal Responsibility Index

The Global Village: Connect World Drives Economic Shift

The World Bank: Data and Research

Meanwhile, dozens of organizations try to fill in the gaps.

World Vision is at the top of my list.