Barclays Bank has won a Public Eye ‘shame award’ for speculating on food prices in a ceremony held on Friday in Davos, Switzerland, to coincide with the World Economic Forum. The award is based on which company has the worst impacts globally and Barclays took the honours for its activities that fuel hunger and poverty worldwide.
Barclays is estimated to make up to £340 million a year from speculating in food ‘futures’ markets, making it the biggest UK player in the markets. Massive influxes of speculative money in food markets have been driving sharp price spikes, sending the cost of food soaring beyond the reach of the world’s poorest people.
‘Barclays is gambling with the price of food, and therefore with people’s lives,’ says Amy Horton of the World Development Movement (WDM) which nominated the bank. ‘Speculation benefits a tiny minority in the financial sector, and at the same time fuels food price spikes which force millions of people to go hungry. Governments must take urgent action to curb this reckless practice.’
Barclays won the Public Eye ‘global award’ selected by a panel of judges. After almost 90,000 people voted online, the ‘people’s award’ went to Brazilian company, Vale, for its involvement in the construction of the controversial Belo Monte dam in the Amazon. Forty thousand people are likely to be forced from their land if the dam goes ahead.
Somewhat ironically, Barclays CEO Bob Diamond responded to the Occupy movement in November by telling the BBC that banks must be ‘better citizens’. Rules to curb speculation are being discussed in the European Union, but the UK government is opposing effective legislation.
It is perhaps no coincidence that UK finance ministers met Barclays at least 15 times within the first year of the coalition government.