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We’re in this together

Financial trouble experienced worldwide

The United States is not the only nation facing hard economic times.

Concerns over rising petroleum prices, the use of grain supplies for biofuels, the increased needs of a growing world population, and a host of natural disasters are being felt around the globe.

For many, the prices of basic grocery items such as milk or pasta have moved beyond the grasp of working families.

In Egypt, two people died in March when riots broke out over the skyrocketing cost and dwindling availability of bread.

Experts say relief may not be felt anytime soon. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization earlier this year predicted more food price spikes in the decade ahead.

“It’s not likely that prices will go back to as low as we’re used to,” says Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist and U.N. food official.

Even modest increases in the price of staple food items can be catastrophic for families in countries like Burundi, where the average family survives on less than $1 a day.

Groceries aren’t the only source of consternation abroad. While Americans complain about the cost of gasoline, Europe is staggering under significantly larger prices at the pump — more than $9 per gallon in some nations.

“I’d be happy if I only paid a mere $4 per gallon,” a man named Max wrote in a comment posted to The New York Times Web site in May. “I live in Germany, and here a gallon is double what it is in the States.”

Even steps to improve the environment, while potentially beneficial in the long term, are expected to cause financial hardship. With coal-fired power plants scheduled for closure soon in Europe, families there are bracing for a 50 to 60 percent increase in their utility bills over the next five years.

Not surprisingly, the global economic forecast is grim. According to a U.N. report on the world economy released in May, “The global economy is teetering on the brink of a severe economic downturn.”

It looks like we’re all in this together.

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