Agricultural Subsidies in Saudi Arabia.  From the Middle East Review of International Affairs.

Within 12 years, between 1980 and 1992, wheat production grew 29-fold--from 142,000 tons in 1980 to 4.1 million tons in 1992--making the Saudi desert the world's sixth-largest wheat exporting country. Such a quantity was well in excess of the self-sufficiency requirement of a country of 17 million in population at that time...  To achieve this enormous growth, wheat-producing areas were increased by 857,000 hectares; or by 14-fold, from 67,000 hectares in 1980 to 924,000 hectares in 1992. ...Beginning in 1993, however--under pressures from low oil prices since the second half of the 1980s, heavy spending on defense and security, the cost of the Iran-Iraq (1980-1988) and 1991 Gulf wars, and the cost of maintaining the expensive lifestyle of some 4,000 immediate members of the al-Saud ruling family--the government had to scale down its wheat-growing subsidy program.... Within four years, by the end of 1996, 76 percent of the new wheat-growing surface added between 1980 and 1992 were abandoned--650,000 hectares out of the 857,000 hectares Wheat production dropped during the same period by 70 percent, from 4.1 million tons in 1992 to 1.2 million tons in 1996. By 2005, however, wheat production increased to 2.65 million tons.On January 8, 2008, Reuters and other news agencies, quoting officials from the Saudi Arabian agriculture and finance ministries, reported that purchases of wheat from local farmers would be reduced by 12.5 percent, with the aim of relying entirely on imports by 2016.

posted June 24, 2008 at 2:00 p.m.


Failed States Index, 2008.   The journal Foreign Policy has published its failed states index.  The most unstable states, according to this listing are:  1.  Somalia;  2.  Sudan;  3.  Zimbabwe;  4.  Chad;  5.  Iraq;  6.  D.R. Congo;  7.  Afganistan;  8.  Ivory Coast;  9.  Pakistan;  10.  Central African Republic. 

posted June 24, 2008 1:45 p.m.


Famine in Ethiopia.  The Boston Globe has a photo essay, including this of a boy watching the arrival of his sister's body.  The sister died of malnutrition;  the boy is being treated for malnutrition at Doctors Without Borders.


posted June 24, 2008 at 1:40 p.m.



World Bank Data on Trade Restrictions.   A new World Bank data set -- World Trade Indicators -- is a source of data on tariffs, but also includes data on other factors that influence trade.   "Institutional Environment" indicators include cost of starting and closing a business,  and indices of government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law and control of corruption.  "Trade facilitation" indicators include international transport cots, domestic transport cots, efficiency indicators for export and import regulations, telephones, internet, education.  From the press release:  "[I]n 2007 most developing countries continued to improve trade policies supporting greater integration. Data... also show that, over the past decade, countries with lower barriers tended to have stronger, more consistent trade and export performance."

posted June 24, 2008 7:40 a.m.


Health Care in Africa.   From the BBC.  "Researchers conducting a study in six African countries have found that a third of the malaria drugs they tested were either fake or sub-standard."

posted June 24, 2008 at 6:30 a.m.