Inflation Spurs Global Wave of Protests06/25 07:49
Rising food costs. Soaring fuel bills. Wages that are not keeping pace.
Inflation is plundering people's wallets, sparking a wave of protests and
workers' strikes around the world.
(AP) -- Rising food costs. Soaring fuel bills. Wages that are not keeping
pace. Inflation is plundering people's wallets, sparking a wave of protests and
workers' strikes around the world.
This week alone saw protests by the political opposition in Pakistan, nurses
in Zimbabwe, unionized workers in Belgium, railway workers in Britain,
Indigenous people in Ecuador, hundreds of U.S. pilots and some European airline
workers. Sri Lanka's prime minister declared an economic collapse Wednesday
after weeks of political turmoil.
Economists say Russia's war in Ukraine amplified inflation by further
pushing up the cost of energy and prices of fertilizer, grains and cooking oils
as farmers struggle to grow and export crops in one of the world's key
As prices rise, inflation threatens to exacerbate inequalities and widen the
gap between billions of people struggling to cover their costs and those who
are able to keep spending.
"We are not all in this together," said Matt Grainger, head of inequality
policy at antipoverty organization Oxfam. "How many of the richest even know
what a loaf of bread costs? They don't really, they just absorb the prices."
Oxfam is calling on the Group of 7 leading industrialized nations, which are
holding their annual summit this weekend in Germany, to provide debt relief to
developing economies and to tax corporations on excess profits.
"This isn't just a standalone crisis. It's coming off the back of an
appalling pandemic that fueled increased inequality worldwide," Grainger said.
"I think we will see more and more protests."
The demonstrations have caught the attention of governments, which have
responded to soaring consumer prices with support measures like expanded
subsidies for utility bills and cuts to fuel taxes. Often, that offers little
relief because energy markets are volatile. Central banks are trying to ease
inflation by raising interest rates.
Meanwhile, striking workers have pressured employers to engage in talks on
raising wages to keep up with rising prices.
Eddie Dempsey, a senior official with Britain's Rail, Maritime and Transport
Union, which brought U.K. train services to a near standstill with strikes this
week, said there are going to be more demands for pay increases across other
"It's about time Britain had a pay rise. Wages have been falling for 30
years and corporate profits have been going through the roof," Dempsey said.
Last week, thousands of truckers in South Korea ended an eight-day strike
that caused shipment delays as they called for minimum wage guarantees amid
soaring fuel prices. Months earlier, some 10,000 kilometers (6,200 miles) away,
truckers in Spain went on strike to protest fuel prices.
Peru's government imposed a brief curfew after protests against fuel and
food prices turned violent in April. Truckers and other transport workers also
had gone on strike and blocked key highways.
Protests over the cost of living ousted Sri Lanka's prime minister last
month. Middle-class families say they're forced to skip meals because of the
island nation's economic crisis, prompting them to contemplate leaving the
The situation is particularly dire for refugees and the poor in conflict
areas such as Afghanistan, Yemen, Myanmar and Haiti, where fighting has forced
people to flee their homes and rely on aid organizations, themselves struggling
to raise money.
"How much for my kidney?" is the question most asked of one of Kenya's
largest hospitals. Kenyatta National Hospital reminded people on Facebook this
week that selling human organs is illegal.
For the middle class in Europe, it's become more expensive to commute to
work and put food on the table.
"Increase our salaries. Now!" chanted thousands of unionized workers in
Brussels this week.
"I came here to defend the purchasing power of citizens because
demonstrating is the only way to make change," protester Genevieve Cordier
said. "We cannot cope anymore. Even with two salaries ... both of us are
working, and we cannot get our head above water."
In some countries, a combination of government corruption and mismanagement
underpin the economic turmoil, particularly in politically gridlocked countries
like Lebanon and Iraq.
The protests reflect a sense of growing financial insecurity. Here's how
that has played out in Africa:
-- Health care professionals in Zimbabwe went on strike this week after
rejecting the government's offer of a 100% pay rise. The nurses say the offer
does not come close to skyrocketing inflation of 130%.
-- Kenyans have protested in the streets and online as the price of food
jumped by 12% in the past year.
-- One of Tunisia's most powerful labor unions staged a nationwide public
sector strike last week. The North African country faces a deteriorating
-- Hundreds of activists this month protested the rising cost of living in
Burkina Faso. The U.N. World Food Program says the price of corn and millet has
shot up more than 60% since last year, reaching as high as 122% in some
"As far as this cost of living that keeps increasing is concerned, we
realized that the authorities have betrayed the people," said Issaka Porgo,
president of the civil society coalition behind the protest in the west African
Protesters condemn the military junta, which ousted the democratically
elected president in January, for giving themselves a pay raise while the
population faces rising prices.
The International Monetary Fund says inflation will average about 6% in
advanced economies and nearly 9% in emerging and developing economies this
year. Global economic growth is projected to slow by 40%, to 3.6%, this year
and next. The IMF is calling on governments to focus support packages to those
most in need to avoid triggering a recession.
The slowdown comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is still gripping industries
worldwide, from manufacturing to tourism. Climate change and drought are
hitting agricultural production in some countries, prompting export bans that
push up food prices even further.
Rising food prices are particularly painful in low-income countries, where
42% of household incomes are spent on food, said Peter Ceretti, an analyst
tracking food security at risk advisory firm Eurasia Group.
"We will see more protests, probably broader and angrier, but I do not
expect destabilizing or regime-changing protests," he said, as producers adjust
and governments approve subsidies.