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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 
agricultural regions.

   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 
sectors.

   "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 
country altogether.

   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 
economic crisis.

   -- 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 
provinces.

   "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 
country.

   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.

 
 
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