Ghosh what a great evening

29 October 2010

Adam Gardner, fair trade campaigner

WDM’s Gambling on Food public looked like an un-miss able event, and judging by the packed hall, I wasn’t the only one to think so. It was also my first WDM meeting and though I couldn’t claim to know too much about futures markets or commodity speculation beforehand, it was one of the most informative and inspiring events I’ve been to in a long time.

Dr. Jayati Ghosh firstly painted the picture of food price rises over the past 15 years- eloquently correlating the rise and fall of futures commodity prices with the deregulation of commodity futures markets and the boom and bust of other stock markets during the recent period of financial crisis.
Dr. Ghosh showed enormous knowledge and understanding whilst debunking the myths around food price rises in the global south, including the fact that Indian and Chinese consumption of grains has fallen in absolute terms in the past 15 years - one explanation offered by those who would like to play down the impact of casino capitalism on the world’s poor. She also addressed the impact of climate change, lack of agricultural investment and move to bio fuels worldwide, adding that the speculation on futures prices hugely exaggerates any slight price changes other factors may bring about.

Bob Pollin then stepped up to inspire the audience with a rare success story of campaigners over Wall Street lobbyists in the US, resulting in Congress introducing new regulations to curb the reckless excesses of commodity market speculation. These regulations were in the form of restricting huge deals, financial punishments, and setting margins so that speculators have to invest their own cash. Despite his obvious expertise, Bob’s message was simple: We did it in New York, you can do it in London, and you have to!

Deborah Doane concluded by showing the real potential for the betting on food campaign in the current climate, the appetite from the public and policy makers to clamp down on unregulated financial institutions profiteering on hunger and I for one can’t wait to get to work on George Osborne and his colleagues to make it happen.



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