Sunday 27th April, 2008


Ban yuh belly

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The magical poui, resplendent in yellow, lit up the morning sky like my private burst of sunlight, as I pondered the price of my tea.

By evening, the blooms would have been blown away, much like the stacks of rice and flour on the neighbourhood grocery shelves.

The International Monetary Fund says there is a 25 per cent chance of global recession, and the US itself is “tipping” into a mild recession, with some recovery expected in 2009.

They say although growth in the emerging and developing economies has accounted for two-thirds of all global growth in the past five years, it will slow there as well.

They warn that sustained inflation pressures, in countries like ours, are likely to trigger tight fiscal and monetary controls.

We may be pressured further when the advanced economies invoke protectionist policies, in light of a deteriorating labour market.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has equated the current food price escalation as a seven-year setback to the Millennium Goals for poverty eradication.

Large food producers have, in fact, banned export of their food produce, rice and wheat in particular, and this will exacerbate shortages.

The World Trade Organisation Director General is saying the Doha Rounds, geared to boost the global economy, although stalled at several phases, can be concluded within weeks.

Stay away from expensive stuff.

It’s like the good, the bad and the ugly all rolled into one Mexican burrito. How do you spend less money for the same goods without the sombrero?

On the ugly side, cheaper food imports signal inferior quality, especially in perishable commodities like vegetables, rice, peas and beans.

On the good side, a substitute food market is poised to emerge. This is just another group of producers who may profit from the shortages, not by hoarding and black-marketing, but by aggressively entering the market with substitute goods.

On the bad side, we’ll cancel our long-term savings plans to meet short-term needs, rather than starve!

The good news is that if you think crisis management, practise crisis management, and “ban yuh belly,” as my father used to say, you can keep long-term savings in place.

The world, in fact, entered into a global recession in 2001-2002, and that was not too long after it had recovered from the Asian crisis. We survived then; we will survive now, with some simple strategies.

How many times do you go to buy two items, and emerge with much more?

Learn to show up with a shopping list in all the stores! Don’t wander around the lanes or mall, wondering what to buy.

Stay away from expensive stuff unless you’re out to impress!

Don’t browse on exotic and expensive teas, lotions or oils, for example, unless you’re paying for fun. Limit your time spent in the store.

In fact, you can make exotic teas from scratch, with natural bay leaves, ginger, garlic, whole spices, orange peel, directly from items you already have in the kitchen, using brand X tea bags.

List-shopping can be pedantic, but you can buy what is on sale in bulk, if you have a big family. Buy what is in season; don’t hoard and don’t buy many perishables!

While I was pondering my shopping list, I was moved to sit on the ground with the fallen poui flowers, and made a startling discovery: the most expensive food I buy is the food that I fail to eat.