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close this bookEssays on Food, Hunger, Nutrition, Primary Health Care and Development (AVIVA, 480 p.)
close this folder15. Viewpoint: Nutrition Planning - What Relevance to Hunger?
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThe general issues
View the documentNorth-South conflict
View the documentThe response of the rich
View the documentAid and funding agencies
View the documentThe international bureaucracy
View the documentThe basic questions
View the documentThe planners and the people
View the documentResearch
View the documentA third world perspective

North-South conflict

· What is the role of the rich and poor countries?

· What has the role of the multinational corporations been in the whole picture of the rich-poor relations?

If we look at the international rich poor relationships and often the national rich poor relationships as well, it should be no surprise to us that the gap is growing. The poor nations balances of payment are constantly deteriorating, in part because of the higher oil prices. As president Nyerere put it: ‘In 1965, Tanzania could buy a tractor by selling 175 tons of sisal. In 1972 the cost of the same model needed 42 tons of sisal. In 1974, 57% more sisal was needed to get the same tractor. The poor buy and sell at whatever price suits the wealthy. They are price takers, not price-makers’.2 The situation in the world tends to be what game theorists call a zero-sum game in which there can only be winners to the extent there are offsetting losers.

2 ‘The economic challenge: dialogue or confrontation?’ Julius K. Nyerere, Bread for the World Newsletter, August, 1976.

The deteriorating situation in the underdeveloped countries is caused by the international market keeping raw materials at low prices and inflating the prices of manufactured goods, only in part because of oil price rises. High oil prices have had a direct impact on food production as the cost of fertilizers has risen to the point of making them increasingly unavailable to the third world.

This can not continue, and the poor realize it. They are now organized, in 'The Group of 77’. What they fight for now, is a 'new economic order', for 'price indexation' in foreign trade and for fair import tariffs and quotas of their manufactured goods to the rich countries. This would give them a chance to sell their products at an equitable and proportionately more stable price that would allow them to import the goods they do not have, at a more equitable rate of exchange. They are also asking for a more just international allocation system, especially for agricultural inputs (mostly fertilizer), proportional to the populations they have to feed, and for oil, the vital energy source to all economies.

As Nyerere said. 'The transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor is a matter of right; it is not an appropriate matter for charity'.

I am afraid we are still far, in international relationships, from a point where these basic facts are universally accepted. The longer it lakes, the more emotional the issues will become in the international arena. It is ultimately a matter of survival. Josue Castro once wrote... 'the world can be divided into two groups: Those who cannot eat and those who cannot sleep; the former do not have the means to feed themselves and their families and the latter don't sleep because they fear the violent rebellion of the hungry’.