Published on 12:00 AM, April 22, 2012

Spiralling Food Prices

PM wants global response

Asks for global reforms in financial governance at Unctad conference

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina speaks at World Leaders' Investment Summit in the Qatari capital Doha yesterday.Photo: PID

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday underscored the need for massive global reforms in present economic and financial governance side by side with a strong political will for the betterment of all.
"As we try to find solution, we must accept the fact that the present economic and financial governance requires wide ranging reforms, and any reform cannot but be inclusive," she told the opening ceremony of the 13th United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad XIII) at the Qatar National Conference Centre here.
She added: "We have to have faith in the ability of the multilateral processes to deliver. This would surely require a strong political will to rise above narrow mindsets, and to make hard political choices, for the good of all in our globalised world."
To check food price volatility, she said, a comprehensive global response is needed that may include discouraging export ban on food and inputs, and stockholding to meet humanitarian food emergencies, among others.
"The latter has gained importance in view of climate change impacts affecting the most vulnerable countries. We suffer the most without contributing to the causes of global warming and this is an outright injustice and needs to be redressed," she said.
Hasina said the least developed countries (LDCs) need debt cancellation, debt relief and overseas development assistance (ODA) as promised by the developed countries, help in improving productive capacities, aid separate from the ODA for climate change adaptation and mitigation.
She said LDCs, for technology deficit, also need extension of the transition period under the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) Agreement beyond 2013; and pharmaceutical patents beyond 2016 to ensure access to affordable medicine.
"The LDCs also need to avail of the decisions taken at the WTO Ministerial in December 2011, as on waiver on services, to further develop trade," she said.
The prime minister said the LDCs expect the WTO to focus discussion at the Committee on Trade and Development, inter alia, setting up of an effective mechanism for monitoring of special and differential provisions.
She said trade liberalisation must facilitate flow of resources and technology, creation of jobs and skills, enhancing productivity, and full duty free and quota free access to LDCs in the markets of all developed countries in a progressive and time-bound manner as per commitment made in Hong Kong, seven years ago.
"We see imbalances among agriculture and non-agriculture, financial and non-financial sectors, and rural and urban, private and public sectors, the rich and the poor, and the developed and the developing countries," she said.
Mentioning that Bangladesh has not benefited from the global commodity price hike, Hasina said rather the country faced, due to global energy price escalation, inflationary pressure on domestic production and cost of food, commodities and goods.
"These and the impacts of climate change have drawn our scarce resources from the much needed infrastructure and social projects," she said, adding restrained development aid and FDI inflows have not helped much either.
The premier said though some developing countries have had success due to global integration, many including the LDCs, were not fortunate despite our resolve in Marrakesh in 1995 and in Doha a decade ago, to open markets, make trade inclusive, and promote developmental goals.
She said indeed, on global warming, the LDCs need a collective response based on equity with focus on historical and current responsibility, per capita green house gas emission, respective capabilities, development requirements, extent of vulnerability etc.
"Since resource is vital for implementation of the adaptation and mitigation plans, new and additional funds under fast-track finance and the operation of the Green Climate Fund are of urgent need," she said.
Hasina also stressed the need for hammering out an institutionalised mechanism to manage climate change-induced displacement.
"Another imbalance that needs to be corrected is in the voting and decision making in the Bretton Woods institutions to ensure equitable voice of the vulnerable and developing countries. Similarly, any new process like the G-20 should have defined way of consultation with the LDCs," she said.
The prime minister also called for deregulation of the financial sector against technical barriers to trade to ensure control; limited state role before crises; extensive state obligation after market fall; limited roles of states in trade and investment; greater State responsibilities on human development and security.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani opened the conference, while Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, Comoros President Ikililou Dhoinine, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and President of National Senate of Algeria Abdelkader Ben Salah also spoke at the inaugural ceremony of the six-day conference.
Earlier in the day, Hasina addressed the World Leaders Investment Summit at Qatar National Conference Centre when she called for a global consensus in changing business and investment relations as she placed an eight-point proposal for sustainable investment.
At the grand opening of the World Investment Forum 2012 Friday night, Hasina announced the name of Malta Enterprise of Malta as the first winner of the Unctad Investment Promotion Awards 2012 and handed over the prize.
Awards were given to world's four other best-practising investment organisations at Hotel St. Regis in West Bay of Doha in conjunction with the Unctad XIII.