Food and its relationship with Hunger

Hunger is still a cause for concern in South Asia, despite numerous countries in the region already meeting its MDG target of halving, by 2015, the number of people, who suffer from hunger

It was the most unfortunate of circumstances when sub-Saharan Africa could not overwhelmingly meet its MDG goals by 2015. It had appeared during the time frame of the launch of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that sub-Saharan Africa would perhaps meet its targets because a lot of the focus was on the impoverished conditions of the region. Furthermore, G8 leaders, from developed countries, such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom had also committed to increasing aid to Africa by 2010 but what followed was that sub-Saharan Africa has largely fallen behind to address the causes for concern, as outlined by the MDGs, instead.

It’s hard to draw comparisons even though both the regions are very poor, indeed, because South Asia is performing a lot better than sub-Saharan Africa, these years. In 2014, sub-Saharan Africa was found to have high hunger rates, much like South Asia; for South Asia, particularly, India has the highest percentage of the global extreme poor (32.9percent) followed by Bangladesh (5.3percent). However, according to latest figures, prevalence of undernourishment chalks at 15.7percent for South Asia and 23.2 for sub-Saharan Africa.

One of the primary causes for concern in South Asia is hunger, which can really give rise to an undernourishment problem, which is a significantly greater problem in South Asia, than elsewhere. Asian nations, such as Nepal, Bangladesh and Malaysia have already met one of the components of the first MDG target:

Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

This is alongside sub-Saharan African states, like Mauritius, Nigeria and Ethiopia, but not Rwanda and Sierra Leone – the two states are expected to reach the target (before 2020) but what is so disconcerting is that the hunger problem still prevails in South Asia. In 2014-2016, hunger percentages from the level in 1990-1992 were slashed by a staggering 69percent for Nepal, a 52percent for Bangladesh and a 37percent for India. In comparison, many states performed very poorly with reduction of hunger, such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, food insecurity in South Asia is still a major problem and this is simultaneously also reaping my concerns over consumer affordability because affordability for food is directly proportional to food security. But global prices for foods, such as wheat, vegetable oils, dairy, meat and sugar also recently saw an increase – a rise in prices can mean good profits-wise for agriculture and farming because harvest is managing to rake in such great prices for farmers, which can help them to increase their income bracket and provide the means to afford food more.

Why Theology Fascinates Me

I have never been a religious person. I don’t go to church every Sunday and I don’t fast when it’s Ramadan season. But theology has always fascinated me. Two very important religions are connected with each other: Christianity and Islam. Both the religions believe in the existence of a God, and that there is only one God. Furthermore, the two religions also share a historical and traditional connection: both originated in the Middle East and it is fundamental for Muslims to believe in Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity.

Reasons such as these are sufficient to want religious harmony between the two religions because these similarities are not ordinary similarities: so many religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which are also two major religions differ immensely from Christianity and Islam. It’s very disheartening to see that where there should be religious harmony, there is only differences sometimes because of a backward (and very incorrect) idea of religion itself.

Followers of Hinduism believe in the existence (and worship) of numerous gods and it’s a religion which can be classified as paganism. It’s not too much of a far-fetched theory exactly because in ancient Greek scripture, there are mentions of the Greeks believing in the existence of many gods. Buddhism, meanwhile, preaches that there is no personal god and that nothing is permanent and change is always a possibility.

I find theology interesting because what each religion preaches are sensible statements in today’s world.

Every religion comes with their own sets of ideas. In Islam, fasting is observed by Muslims during the Holy month of Ramadan. In one of the verses of the religious text for Islam, the Qur’an, it is written:

(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.

– Surah Baqarah 2:184

This writing can be interpreted as: a Muslim should fast because it will then help the conditions of the very poor because for 29 to 30 days, for a period during every day, Muslims are abstaining from amongst many things, food and drink, which the poor can ill afford. Furthermore, it is written that it’s good if a Muslim fasts but only if they know how to.

The verses of the Qur’an are the revelations, which Muhammad (the Prophet of Islam) had during his lifetime. After the death of Prophet Muhammad, the Qur’an has often been understood (or interpreted) with the help of hadiths (Arabic word for ‘report’) and this practice is inclusive of the tafsir (Arabic word for ‘critical explanation/interpretation of a religious text’) written in the Qur’an.

Hadiths are subordinate to the Qur’an and numerous branches of Islam follow numerous hadiths. As a result, the general understanding regarding fasting (for Muslims) these days is that it’s mandatory but that’s not a belief, which seems to coincide with the above mentioned verse from the Qur’an – it is written in the verse that a person should really fast if they only know how to. The belief behind why fasting for a Muslim is a noble idea is reflective of the times today because there are many poor (and needy) people in the world and observing fasting during a holy month confines belief that a person can be one with the poor (and the needy) around the globe.

The Hunger Problem

Malnourishment (or malnutrition) is a major cause for concern in numerous countries around the world, from Bangladesh to Madagascar. Prices of food and a person’s diet determines whether or not he or she would rank in the malnourishment scale. It’s not just about less food consumption – if a person’s diet is folded to include an overt amount of rice or corn, it may lead to malnutrition because the diet lacks other necessary nutrition, which a well-thought-of diet would provide, with a lot of simplicity; it’s more close to the scenario of overeating leading to malnutrition, as well.

The time periods 1990-1992 and 2012-2014 saw a 42percent reduction in undernourishment in developing countries. It’s only been lowered by a margin in India and Bangladesh, but the rest of Asia is doing a lot better with the reduction of undernourishment.

The greatest risk associated with malnutrition is how it can affect poor people because of an unequal access to education or them having an uneven income. Previously, in Bangladesh, a poor socioeconomic condition was connected to persistent malnutrition. In developing countries food prices for milk, fruits and meats, should be targeted and lowered, instead of raising it, as is happening. A global food price crisis might not be in the cards, as of now, but it’s definitely not helping poverty groups with their need for basic, daily nutrition.

The targets set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were met by East Asia, South East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015, as the regions were previously supposed to, within that time frame, in an effort for developing nations to slice in half the percentages of hungry people. It’s important to note that the world does produce sufficient food for every individual to eat. But because the price problem still persists, followed by a low agricultural efficiency and loss subsequent to harvest, issues of hunger still prevails.

Mobile Networks in Asia

My new mobile network provider Robi got me thinking more about telecommunications in Asia. Robi is also known in Bangladesh as Robi Axiata Limited – the mobile network operator is a joint venture between Axiata Group Berhad (Malaysia), Bharti AirTel Limited (India) and NTT DoCoMo (Japan).

In Bangladesh, Robi is the second largest mobile network operator, which is very fantastic. And this scene of mobile network operators performing as a collaborative effort with foreign companies, is really a very good reflection of mobile telecommunications in Bangladesh. Indeed, two other big mobile networks in the nation: Grameenphone and Banglalink also function in a similar way. Grameenphone is a collaborative effort between Telenor (Norway) + Grameen Telecom, and Banglalink is owned entirely by a Maltese company.

Axiata holds a 68.7% stake in Robi, Bharti AirTel holds 25%, and NTT DoCoMo has the remaining 6.3%. Meanwhile, Telenor owns a 55.8% stake for perhaps its biggest rival – the largest telecommunications provider in the country, GrameenPhone. In Japan, NTT DoCoMo is the chief mobile phone operator, whilst Bharti AirTel operates mostly in South Asia and Africa. Axiata has numerous services across Asia, from Celcom (Malaysia), to Idea (India). Celcom is Malaysia’s oldest mobile telecommunications service, and Idea is the third largest mobile network operator in India – this is entirely by national subscribers base; AirTel is the third largest mobile network operator in the world, by subscribers base – hardly surprising, when India’s an overpopulated state.

Turkey’s New Vote

New powers and a new reality, following a coup d’etat

Turkey’s new vote on Tuesday on amending constitutional rights and taking the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential democracy, resulted in a lead for the ‘Yes’ vote. It’s still pretty early stages but soon, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan could find himself granted with more powers and control over the state than before. Erdogan has been in power in Turkey since 2003 and he has grown into a leader who views opposition as enemies to the state.

Turkey is still fragile and healing from the aftermath of a failed coup – tourism in the country already took a bad dent for it. Rooting out corruption, extremism, ensuring greater security is a very bad need in Turkey, and the message from the referendum is loud and clear: the state is placing a great deal of faith in Erdogan’s power despite his checkered equation with democracy itself.

The campaigns put up by Erdogan’s party in power, the AK Parti, dominated both banners placed in town and the media, preceding the vote. The President likes to make the media bend and obey his every command, rather than offering them absolute freedom, and if his latest victory with constitutional amendment is installed, Erdogan will have full control over the budget, as well as cherry-picking parliament members, who do his bidding entirely. That is too much control for one politician to have and it’s not hard to pluck out authoritarian sentiments lining Erdogan’s latest desire.

It is true that no matter the nature of political ideology that the Turkish President likes to portray, with Erdogan in power, Turkey is taking turtle-steps towards bettering national democratic values. Erdogan and his party had once turned a shanty town inhabited by peasants from rural areas (who came to the locality to look for work) into a town filled with apartments, roads and shops. Erdogan had also promised to provide Kurds with rights and help them find peace, previously, although it’s important to note that since 2015 progress has stalled.

The latest military coup has brought back horrible pasts to Turkey, that it had thought it had said goodbye to. The coup d’etat has left Turkish people feeling trapped in their own country. Turkey is no longer the same republic it had been, when it was founded five years after the first world war. The state is a lot more against the West and more religious, nowadays – Turkey is a predominantly Muslim nation. The national atmosphere has been one of defiance following the coup d’etat but there is no denying that the state needs to focus on nation building efforts, again, or nation rebuilding efforts, where the prime focus should be upholding democratic values and it can begin with a vote of confidence in Erdogan once more.

South Korea’s General Elections

Snap elections were announced following Park Geun-hye’s forced removal from office, and the result of that installed Moon Jae-in as the next President of South Korea

Moon Jae-in was recently declared the winner in the South Korean presidential elections, and his win came as a bit of a surprise, given Moon’s past track record of having constantly protested against dynastical rule by Park Chung-hee and Park Geun-hye. The win for Moon can be regarded as a landslide and it comes as a breath of fresh air amidst the negativity that has been circulating around South Korean politics for quite some time now. Ever since, the last president, Park Geun-hye, was sent to prison following a parliament impeachment because of having taken bribes from large corporations with a friend, as well as both permitting her friend to interfere in policy-making and sharing state secrets with her, the next wise political step for South Korea has been shrouded in confusion.

Moon’s recent electoral victory has largely been about making the Korean state fairer. The gap between the rich and the poor, corruption in South Korean society because of the government’s close connections to big corporations, and the grievous difficulty in securing jobs for the young are major issues, which Moon should use his singular five-year term in power to address. Moon has promised to make his government more kind to the public’s concerns – more than half of his votes came from young people in their twenties and thirties, so over the big question of providing more employment opportunities to young South Koreans, which at the time is tough to get without good connections, Moon has promised job creation, primarily in the public sector, a portion of which will be targeted towards young people in South Korea.

Major challenges also exist for Moon over bettering relations with neighbour states: Japan, China and North Korea. South Korea and North Korea still do not see eye-to-eye on matters very much because of the latter’s constant insistence of ramming up nuclear developments. It’s so tough to imagine a different orientation of matters but Moon has offered to reach out if things improve – at the moment, President Trump is pressing for payment of a US-born missile-defence system (THAAD), which brews concern over South Korea’s relations with China because the communist state is already unhappy about THAAD’s use, leading it to boycott South Korean goods. Meanwhile, Japan’s trouble with South Korea is an entirely different one though – the state is not pleased with a revival of anti-Japan protests in South Korea, over what happened during the second world war.

Snap Elections in the UK

A deeply unpopular election is to be held on 8 June, which will be contested by all major parties in the country, from the Labour Party to the Lib Dems

Snap elections in the United Kingdom were recently announced by Theresa May but there is no clue whatsoever as to why. Theresa is practically unopposed in both the House of Lords and the Commons, so there is no crisis to her leadership in sight there that would demand a general election so soon but the new Prime Minister took it upon herself to press forward with the decision to hold one anyways. It’s not just that: Britons are not in want of a general election, and earlier on when Theresa took over Westminster following David Cameron’s departure from Downing Street, she had made it clear that no general elections are going to happen until 2020.

A whole host of people are once again running for elections, from Kenneth Clarke MP, who’s a major antagonist to Theresa’s plans in Westminster – he had opposed Brexit, to Jeremy Corbyn, who unsurprisingly (and shamelessly) insists he will still be the Labour leader if he loses this set of elections. It all boils down to how hard it is really to justify the reasons for snap elections however, because there is no war going on and also no news media has been widely (and vigorously) campaigning for one to happen this early, which desperately needs to be addressed. Because of all of that, judgements towards the latest midterm Prime Minster of the United Kingdom simply increases tenfold.

In my honest opinion, it doesn’t really matter whether Jeremy Corbyn or Theresa May comes to power because they are both unsatisfactory leaders in their own right. Corbyn is not a popular Labour leader amongst his party contemporaries – in fact, several polls since his election as the leader of the party also suggest that Labour voters want to see him replaced. Meanwhile, the damage that Theresa did to British politics for this decision alone, is hard to recover from because she comes across as a hypocrite and an idiot.

Theresa called an election because she is unable to band together and differences exist in Westminster but that is just what Westminster is. Maybe Theresa should have been more well-versed on that aspect of politics, as well. The tense climate that the country is teetering on at the moment, following a Brexit did not need a further injection of a new general election but that is just what it got because the Labour Party feels like it should respond to this by contesting in the elections too.

If Theresa is looking for support, she must promise that she has the whole parliament’s support for key decisions in the coming months on issues such as Brexit. Under no circumstances can the new election undermine the conditions that Brexit is happening over, if Theresa was to still remain in power, which seems likely. A major poll puts forward the idea of Theresa May as a better political alternative to her contemporaries, particularly Jeremy Corbyn, and the Tory party has not enjoyed this much support since 2008, when Gordon Brown was the Prime Minster of the United Kingdom and national recession was still widespread.

Dilma Rousseff & Brazil’s Economic Uncertainty

Dilma Rousseff is one of the most charismatic leaders to have come out of Latin America but that is not what everybody would like to think

Brazilians, overwhelmingly, reject Dilma Rousseff. As the President of Brazil, she is fast becoming the target of criminal charges, that seems to have no solid ground to stand upon but was nonetheless pressed into reality by Eduardo Cunha, the lower house of Congress’ Speaker. This is happening as political evidence points towards her term coming with excessive spending, bad management skills, huge unemployment figures, and a bad-performing economy – all of this is only in Dilma’s first term. In her second term, Congress ran out of her control, and no news really about much needed fiscal reforms and spending cuts to help Brazil’s economy. A troubled economy is feeding into the perception that the public have of Dilma and it is obviously a very unfavourable one, as notices file up about her hiding the full extent of government misspending. In Brazil’s recent history, Dilma can be looked at as a defective President: the criminal charges pressed against her might have been motivated by bitter vengeance, but the fact remains that unpleasant political derivatives in Brazil because of Dilma needs sound justice.

This year is meant to be about hosting the Olympic Games for Brazil, the first country in South America, to have received this honour. Amidst preparations for a national party atmosphere, is the looming thought about the country’s political hardships. The state debt scale has been reduced to junk status, the finance minister quit prematurely in hopelessness, and the economy is expected to be slashed by around 2.5percent to 3percent this year, which is topping up the same amount for last year. Brazil cannot be an emerging economy in distress because it is a part of BRICS (B) and that status is indicative of it being an economy that can be classified as a rapidly growing one (in size), like Russia, China, India and South Africa. The catalyst of the problems in Brazil now can be traced back to excessive spending to fork out pensions and a tax relief for industries on the hotbed for favouritism, and now the only solution within sight seems to be the increment of taxes and alienating the thought of too much spending.

With a new finance minister at the helm, Dilma should move towards securing a more stable pensions system because right now, Japan, a richer state than Brazil, shelves less for pensions. In Brazil, on average, women retire at the ago of 50, and men retire at the age of 55, and the national minimum wage, as now, cannot be at the same level as the expected pensions rate, if Brazil is to smoothly expand economically. Furthermore, labour laws have fenced in expensive firing for workers who can never do their job right, slim international competition inside of Brazil is thinning productivity, and most of public spending is secure from cuts because of a cause for celebration back in 1988 over the termination of military rule, which made it possible to grant security over jobs, as well as national advantages. The good news is that borrowing, for the most part has been in the national currency, so there is no fear of defaulting, but there is a great fear of inflation because of a mountain of debts. Inflation can happen if Brazil’s government cannot transform the national climate, so that means a possibility of more poverty again, or at least no economic progress, and a political way forward is historically much more sound for Brazil.

China’s Economic Woes

How much should socialism really remodel itself in today’s China?

Economic uncertainty is a widespread concern for China despite the prevailing national sentiment that it should not be so because projections suggest there will be no slash in growth rates and targets will mostly be met. But this isn’t the full picture: the index fell 7percent at first and then another 15percent during the beginning of the year, and this, frankly speaking has been China’s worst economic performance when the economy is supposed to be in an excellent state as the new year settles itself into the summer. Most of the fear is not stemming from the idea that it will be so tough for the Far Eastern nation to become a stable income country but rather it is about a hesitation to warm to technocrats. Economic trouble around the world has made the start of this year the second worst after 1970 and China is not indifferent to it. This means that the popular image of the country back in the day of a Communist state on the rise is now changing hands with the growing debts, trouble in the labour market and a political system unable to grapple with market, as much as the national idea of Mao.

Speaking of national sentiments, the prevailing question about the uncertainty in economic understanding for Xi Jinping and his party, brings to the forefront of memory how hard China had it as early as 2009. Less babies were being born, which meant a dent in the working age group, and a growth in the elderly people diaspora, and the constant dread of having to accommodate looking after the old, for the young. This was alongside unemployment for graduates that just kept on peaking, unaffordable property prices, and an environmentally unfriendly attitude to industrialisation. The party, though, can proudly label itself as a socialist reformer, taught up at the heels of the collapse of the Soviet Union. The state in the past had a burdened welfare structure, it permitted NGOs to operate within its borders, business people dominated Chinese ranks and low-scale elections for posts within the party wasn’t such a strange thought.

There is half democracy, a totalitarian slant, manufacturing job cuts in store for blue-collar workers that can’t be looked upon as a positive occurrence, instead now but the Communist party doesn’t think along those lines when it abhors protest movements. The rural class and the middle class need to feel economically secure for the government to be looked upon favourably so the challenges keep on looking tougher for the inflexible model of socialism the Communist party likes to abide by. It is very similar to the regular spotting of Confucian traditions in dining interspersed with braised hog insides, because these dishes were once a part of Confucius’ family dining experience, in China. Cookery in this style is not about delicious roast duck as it is about following the political slant within the Communist party, but as a roast duck fan, myself, I wouldn’t find it sad at all to skip on tasting out the cooking of hog in a rather absurd primitive style.

The Chinese Communist State

China and it’s idea of communism is slowly evolving!

Xi Jinping recently announced that he likes to put his faith in the Chinese dream: but what is it? To put it simply it is an ideology that firmly follows the foundations of Chinese Communist culture: the ruling party of China was established in 1921 and under the leadership of Mao Zedong they pursued heavy development, with the help of industries and extra income from peasants.

Mao grew his own brand of Communism and called it Maoism. Too much industrialization to grow China eventually sacrificed many to starvation but his boldness in hunting his enemies is still worth appreciating. China today is interested in modernism and preserving it’s classical traditions. The Chinese Communist Party wants to see itself as one of the dominant powers in the world of politics but that is so tough to do.

Once humiliated as an independent nation and after falling into poverty from riches, now it is littered with fast trains and statues of Confucius. Traditionally, it is tough to comprehend how much Xi wants to preserve the past and grow the Chinese state despite his chants about family roles and individualism and its positive relationship with China.

Mao was influential in protecting his country from outside influence, such as that from Japan and the West – they could not control as many ports as before! But his industrialization efforts also gave rise to famine and poor agriculture harvesting. Although, the wonders of Marxism cannot be spoken enough off and what it did to identify ‘the struggles of numerous classes’, it is always tentative steps or too much industrialization, sans sufficient risk assessment that greets you over national interpretations of Communism in various states.