Tue, 11 Oct 1994

North-South inequity deplored

JAKARTA (JP): President Soeharto, in his capacity as chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), deplored the uneven economic relations between industrial countries in the North and developing nations in the South despite the end of the Cold War.

"As of today, there are no signs of improvement of global economy or of North-South relations," Soeharto said.

President Soeharto opened the two-day NAM ministerial meeting on food and agriculture on the tourist island of Bali yesterday.

The President also said he was concerned with the global economy, with its rampant disguised forms of protectionism, low prices of commodities, lack of access to technology and a heavy debt-servicing burden.

"All these have worsened the economic conditions of the least developed countries whose populations are trapped in poverty, with millions suffering from hunger," he said.

Food remains the primary issue for a segment of the world's population, especially those living in developing countries, he said.

Soeharto noted, however, that food security among the developing economies is "still not satisfactory" despite the efforts of the countries' leaders and experts.

As an example, he cited 21 sub-Saharan countries, where the food supply remains precarious.

Quoting reports, he said the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition in Africa soared from 80 million in 1970 to 150 million in 1992.

He said the conference was expected to address the issues of creating a sufficient food supply and raising people's purchasing power to meet their food demands and food security.

Soeharto was awarded a special medal by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1986 for promoting food and agricultural development in Indonesia, which became self- sufficient in rice in 1984 after being the world's largest rice importer.

Rice is the staple food of 90 percent of Indonesia's population, the world's fourth largest.


FAO Director General Jacques Diof warned the NAM meeting that about 800 million people across the world are deprived of adequate food supplies.

The number of people without adequate food supplies is equal to 20 percent of the total population of developing countries and 37 percent of sub-Saharan Africa, he said.

About 192 million of that number were children under five years old, he added.

Diof, a former Senegalese ambassador to the United Nations, also warned that hunger can easily trigger "major political and social unrest."

He also remarked that people emaciated by hunger are not greatly concerned with democracy, human rights or protection of the environment. (hdj)