By Daniel Hunter

Barclays’ £1.5 billion investment banking bonus pool could pay for school meals for two years for the 23 million primary age children who attend school hungry across Africa, according to figures from the World Development Movement.

The anti-poverty group has slammed the bank for its involvement in speculation on food prices which is fuelling global price spikes, incentivised by bonuses which it claims reward risky and socially-damaging behaviour.

The total bonus pool for the bank’s investment arm could pay for 9.6 billion meals, the campaign group said today.

Barclays has been estimated to make up to £340 million a year from speculating on food, while almost a billion people go hungry worldwide. The World Development Movement is calling for tough regulation to curb speculation on food. The group has claimed today that big banks’ ‘bonus culture’ fuels gambling behaviour that risks people’s lives.

“Big bonuses encourage bankers to take big risks, not only with financial stability through their debt-based investment, but also with people’s lives," Christine Haigh, campaigner at the World Development Movement, said.

"The kind of ‘success’ Barclays has rewarded its executives for contributes to price spikes that put the price of food beyond the reach of the world’s poorest people. Food price inflation is over 5 per cent in the UK at the moment, which is painful enough at a time when people’s real incomes are shrinking. In the poorest countries in the world, food prices have risen by over 50 per cent since 2007, forcing millions of people into hunger and poverty.

“Other risk-taking behaviour by the big banks includes investment in agricultural land grabbing in developing countries, and RBS’s almost £7 billion investment in the Canadian tar sands, which is contributing to climate change and polluting indigenous people’s land.”

Barclays CEO Bob Diamond responded to the Occupy movement by telling the BBC last year that banks must become ‘better citizens’. The bank won a Public Eye ‘shame award’ during the World Economic Forum in Davos two weeks ago for its speculation in food markets.

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