Tackling increased food prices - Michael Briguglio

The Times , Wednesday, 18th June 2008



Food prices in Malta rose by 9.7 per cent in the 12-month period to last April, compared to a 6.2 per cent increase in the eurozone. This is adding burdens on workers and families, many of which already face high costs on other items such as housing and energy.

The working class and the middle strata of society are facing increased inequalities, while precariousness is on the increase. This calls for action from the government.

In the first instance, steps such as the strengthening of the office of fair trading and action against cartels and abusive practices should be carried out.

An active wage policy based on good working conditions, productivity increase, compensation for inflation, wage increases (including the minimum wage) as well as a redistributive element should be introduced.

Besides, given the hardships which are being faced by many families, subsidies on basic foodstuffs and energy should be kept in place, and where required, increased or re-introduced. This can be financed through increased productivity, windfall taxes on big business and the government's retreat from favouring high income earners in its fiscal policy.

Another reform which the government should introduce is the encouragement of local farmers to increase their production and sell their produce directly to the consumer to eliminate the mark-up of middle-men.

Ultimately, however, crises in areas such as food and energy are bound to happen given the intensification of capitalism on a global level, which in turn is characterised by increased exploitation of workers and the ecology in the name of private profits.
This model is unsustainable, whereby the world is reaching its social and ecological limits. This calls for radical changes.

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