Condi Rice says “Go easy on the rice”

A while back, the sharp increase in the price of oil was attributed to the increase in demand from China and India. The sharp increase in the price of other commodities (iron, copper etc) was also similarly attributed. No one complained much as this implied strong growth in the economies of China and India: a positive thing.

However, tact is required when making some statements and the Bush administration has demonstrated on many occasions that it is tactless. The more recent one is about the rise in the price of rice due to improving diets in China and India. I have no doubt that Condi and Bush didn’t imply that the rice eaters — predominantly Asian — in US are suffering because Indians and Chinese are no longer starving in their respective countries. They simply said that the diets in China and India are improving. This is a simple supply and demand issue just like oil and other commodities. Less rice was harvested and as more of it is being consumed locally, less is available for export — and consequently higher prices.

However, they should have known that this is a sensitive issue and unless they word it very carefully, it’s easy to misinterpret the statements and perhaps the motives behind them. After all, until India became famous for outsourcing, the first time an American would hear of India was when his Mom told him to eat up as “millions are starving in India”. The political parties in India, who never agree on anything, were unanimous in voicing their protest. Here is a sample:

Party leaders here asked on Saturday whether Mr. Bush thought the Indians did not have the right to eat better. Why should the U.S. talk about this when India was producing most of the food needed by its people and when it was well known that the U.S. was diverting farm produce like corn to make bio-fuel, they asked.
Read the complete article here.

The reaction from the Indian party leaders is self-serving and extreme. Bush did not say nor imply that Indians did not have the right to eat better.

Hindsight is 20/20 but one could see this one coming. Bush administration is ending in a few months. They have more pressing issues to deal with. They should have said nothing and let Clinton, Obama and McCain do the talking. Or they should have used the good news / bad news routine.

Good News:
We are happy to learn that the diets in China and India are improving. This is long overdue.
Healthy diets means happier people. Happier people code better with fewer bugs.

Bad News:
Price of rice has gone up a lot.

Solution: Switch to

– Pork — the other white meat
– Beef, it’s what’s for dinner

I hope this controvery is put to rest quickly. I don’t want to see “Where’s the rice?” slogans during this election year.

About Babu Srinivasan

My interests are in computer security, cryptography, functional programming and general aviation. I occasionally write articles on these and other topics in my blog.

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