by Tricia Simon
The writing is on the wall, read the tea leaves, if your neighbour’s house is on fire then wet yours. No how it is coined, we are in for a rough ride, so buckle up.
When the World Bank states, “Food and Energy Price Shocks from Ukraine War Could Last for Years”, we all need to take heed. The article further states, “The increase in energy prices over the past two years has been the largest since the 1973 oil crisis. Price increases for food commodities — of which Russia and Ukraine are large producers — and fertilisers, which rely on natural gas as a production input, have been the largest since 2008. “Overall, this amounts to the largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s. As was the case then, the shock is being aggravated by a surge in restrictions in trade of food, fuel and fertilisers,” said Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance, and Institutions. “These developments have started to raise the spectre of stagflation. Policymakers should take every opportunity to increase economic growth at home and avoid actions that will bring harm to the global economy.”
Food, what are we to do for the increased price? Grenada imports a significant amount of food which at this point is not in Grenada’s best economic interest. This net import affects our balance of trade and leaves Grenada in a significant trade deficit.
In the news we see the challenges faced by Sri Lanka: “The country is facing fuel shortages and soaring food prices, with some Sri Lankans forced to skip meals.” Imagine, several months ago Sri Lanka produced enough food to export. Today there is social arrest due to the shortage of food and high energy costs. Like Grenada, tourism was a crucial segment of their economy and due to the violent protest the market has dried up, so the vicious cycle continues — no tourists due to societal violence thus a lack of foreign exchange to purchase basics such as food and fuel. No food and fuel so more protest. The cycle needs to stop, as advised by the World Bank, countries need to increase their production of locally made products, especially basics such as food.
As a solution to the global economic crisis, the World Bank suggests “policymakers to act promptly to minimise harm to their citizens — and to the global economy. It calls for targeted safety-net programs such as cash transfers, school feeding programmes, and public work programmes — rather than food and fuel subsidies.” Subsidies for food such as mackerel, sardines and flour are band-aid solutions and would result in the country going down a rabbit hole of poverty as these are short term solutions. Meh mudder went to town yesterday and ah hear she saying ‘tuna so expensive, ah go start to eat corn fish”, dat was the same corn fish that she used to cut style on before. We need to support our local fishermen — buy more corn fish — fishermen produce more – meh mudder is now ah customer.
How are food subsidies a viable option for economic growth? They are only short-term remedies and we need to think long term and be visionary. We need the tax base to pay for public workers’ salary, Imani and a host of other expenses. If there is a decrease in our tax base and so income does this mean that the ‘R” word would be used in the public service — RETRENCH?
The UK prime minister is proposing a 90,000 civil servant cut, that is almost the whole of Grenada being laid off. And if we want IMF and World Bank money as loan dey go say to lay public workers off. So, if people want to wuk, we all have to do we part, reduce the energy and food import bill.
We are an agrarian society and programmes should be fast-tracked to increase agriculture for food production. The backyard garden programme where the small holder is encouraged to plant food should be ramped up to feed the populous — rip up yuh lawn and plant food. The land bank programme should be advertised and really pushed for uptake — and no yuh cyan put no house on it to live, is not yuh land, yuh jus renting it, find someway else to live. This is an opportunity for economic growth and to feed the nation because we all in dis togedder. An doh tink family in America go send down barrel because they feeling the heat as well. My fren who jus come back from America say jobs hard to find because dey using robot to do ah lot ah duh jobs people used to do. So we betta learn to fend for weself because wen yuh keep calling dem in America asking for barrel and food dey go jus ignore duh call because tings bad wid dem too. Plus dey go say, Grenada have good soil and it warm, dey cud plant all year round.
Farmers, fear not as your produce can be exported to earn valuable foreign exchange — you are once again the saviours of the nations, the backbone. The rainy season would be upon us in June and that means planting, vegetables and food for healthy eating.
Organisations and individuals need to work together to increase food production in Grenada. For example, agriculturally based organisations such as Grenada Agro Tourism organise weekly “maroons” where members visit each other’s farms to provide agricultural labour and assistance to each other.
Energy costs for gas and fuel has increased significantly due to covid and now the war. Today, a car is seen as a status symbol, a sense of achievement. I met a young man on Friday and he stated, “In order to pay for my car I ate Crix and cheese.” Upon graduation from university his first purchase was a car. Walking is now seen as a symbol of poverty, but doh worry soon ah lot ah people go be walking and eating Crix and cheese as gas prices increase. My other friend is eating a “raw vegetable” diet. Is he on to something — preparing for increased gas prices?
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.