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President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Alberto Moreno, has cited the need for greater focus on rural development, in an effort to counter the current global food shortage.
Speaking at the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ)/Citigroup Annual Economic Forum, at the Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) in downtown Kingston on Thursday (June 5), Mr. Moreno argued that the crisis, particularly in Latin America and the Caribbean, was partly attributable to the neglect of rural development, consequent on the process of reform undertaken in those countries during the 1990s.
“For years, after the reforms of the 1990s in Latin America and the Caribbean, as many of our countries were quietly inserting themselves in the global economy, they basically forgot the rural areas,” he stated.
The IDB official, cited the need for development of the requisite infrastructure, particularly technology, that would enhance and support agricultural output.
“We need to put an eye, again on the rural areas, to develop roads, especially rural roads, to look at irrigation, which is at the centre of agriculture and also, the type of technology one uses today. The world is privileged to have been in a period of tremendous advances in technology, advances that are also true for the agricultural sector. You have seeds that are almost developed for taking care of, not only higher productivity crops, but also dealing with (resisting) disease,” Mr. Moreno contended.
In this regard, he said Jamaica, like other countries experiencing the prevailing conditions, could turn that challenge into opportunities to alleviate the situation.
“I think it is important also to look at all of these options when one thinks that it is very important to develop, again, food production in every country; and it will be different, country by country. It can be cassava and how we can export, or it can be other types of crops,” the IDB head underscored.
To this end, Mr. Moreno advised that the IDB has created an umbrella facility of US$500 million, which he pointed out “basically is fast disbursing,” that looks, first, to support the social networks that exist in countries, “because we have to understand that if you look at the poorest 20 per cent of many of our countries, they devote anywhere from 45 to 65 per cent of their income to food.”
“Therefore, if Governments cannot begin to deal with this sector of the population, well there is no surprise that we see the kinds of issues (riots) that we saw in Haiti or in Egypt,” he informed, adding that supporting the relevant social networks was fundamental to decisively addressing the issue.