How Goldman Sachs gambled on starvation

By Johann Hari
The Independent

Speculators set up a casino where the chips were the stomachs of millions. What does it say about our system that we can so casually inflict so much pain?

By now, you probably think your opinion of Goldman Sachs and its swarm of Wall Street allies has rock-bottomed at raw loathing. You’re wrong. There’s more. It turns out that the most destructive of all their recent acts has barely been discussed at all. Here’s the rest. This is the story of how some of the richest people in the world – Goldman, Deutsche Bank, the traders at Merrill Lynch, and more – have caused the starvation of some of the poorest people in the world.

It starts with an apparent mystery. At the end of 2006, food prices across the world started to rise, suddenly and stratospherically. Within a year, the price of wheat had shot up by 80 per cent, maize by 90 per cent, rice by 320 per cent. In a global jolt of hunger, 200 million people – mostly children – couldn’t afford to get food any more, and sank into malnutrition or starvation. There were riots in more than 30 countries, and at least one government was violently overthrown. Then, in spring 2008, prices just as mysteriously fell back to their previous level. Jean Ziegler, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, calls it “a silent mass murder”, entirely due to “man-made actions.”

Earlier this year I was in Ethiopia, one of the worst-hit countries, and people there remember the food crisis as if they had been struck by a tsunami. “My children stopped growing,” a woman my age called Abiba Getaneh, told me. “I felt like battery acid had been poured into my stomach as I starved. I took my two daughters out of school and got into debt. If it had gone on much longer, I think my baby would have died.”

Read full post at The Independent

3 responses to “How Goldman Sachs gambled on starvation

  1. amicus curiae

    The Very Last paragraph!!! sums it up. but do read it all:-)

    FAO calls for ‘limited’ regulation of food futures markets

    By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 24-Jun-2010

    Related topics: Food finance and prices, Financial & Industry, Cereals and bakery preparations

    Some regulation of commodities futures markets could be beneficial – but should stop short of tight limits or an outright ban, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has said in a new policy brief.

    Two years ago, there was a major surge in food prices, which led to food shortages and riots in many parts of the world, amid soaring prices for industry and consumers – and many have claimed that excessive market speculation helped fuel price spikes. Prices of maize, rice and wheat, for example, reached their highest levels in 30 years.

    Speculation on the futures market can perform an important function, helping the price discovery mechanism by highlighting any emerging imbalances between supply and demand – in the case of food crops, by encouraging planting when supply is tight and prices are high and discouraging it when supply is good and prices are low.

    But the FAO said on Wednesday: “Apart from actual changes in supply and demand of some commodities, the upward swing might also have been amplified by speculation in organized futures markets.”

    However, the FAO said that too much regulation to prevent the recurrence of such a scenario could be risky.

    “Limiting or banning speculative trading might do more harm than good,” it said.

    Market transparency

    In terms of the type of regulation that could be appropriate, the FAO said that efforts should focus on improving the functioning of the market. Measures should include more transparency of futures trading and closer investigation of suspicious behavior, such as traders requesting permission to invest above their speculative position limits, the FAO said.

    Proposed efforts to reduce speculation in futures markets could “have unintended consequences”, the organization said, as speculators could be put off trading if the futures price is deemed to have diverged too far from the equilibrium level determined by market fundamentals. This could lower the liquidity in the market available for hedging purposes.

    Senate recommendations

    A Senate probe from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported a year ago that wheat price spikes had been caused by excessive speculation in the futures market, noting an increase in daily outstanding contracts from 30,000 in 2004 to 220,000 by mid-2008 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) – the world’s largest wheat futures market.

    It recommended phasing out the waivers that allow traders to exceed the 6,500 wheat contract limit, to consider further restrictions, and to analyze and strengthen other commodity data.

    The FAO’s policy brief concluded: “Commodity futures have become an integral part of food markets, and they perform an important role for many market participants. Adequate regulation should improve, not ban, speculative trading in order to foster market performance.”

    The organization also pointed out that speculation was not solely responsible for soaring food prices, citing high oil prices, strong demand for crops from the bio-fuel sector, falling stockpiles of food and lower cereal production as other contributing factors. In addition, strong economic growth, low interest rates and export restrictions also played a role.
    speculation IS the driving force behind ALL the fuel economic fall over that whole Box and dice.
    these people are seriously deluded.

    • yeah, what a crock… please don’t regulate us cuz we made so much money on starving people.

      kinda fits in with a eugenics plan rather nicely

  2. Pingback: Queens Visit: I Predict A Riot (Maybe) | Soundmigration

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