Those who have and those who have not
According to Oxfam, the richest eight people in the world are as wealthy as our planet’s 3.6 billion poorest. The eight have fortunes totalling $421.75 billion, while the world’s poorest 50 per cent have that sum between them.
The report, “An economy for the 99%” (http://bit.ly/2joLhAq), was published last year. It describes an “obscene level of inequality,” which, if left unchecked “threatens to pull our societies apart.”
It identifies “A worrying rise in racism and the widespread disillusionment with mainstream politics... and that people in richer countries are no longer willing to tolerate the status quo.” All they experience is wage stagnation, insecure jobs and a widening gap between the haves and the havenots. Can a positive alternative be found?
The report crackdown calls for crackdowns on tax dodging, higher investment in public services, and higher wages for the lowest paid.
In January, world leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum (WEF). Its report said that “rising income and wealth disparity” was the top trend that would “determine global development” in the next 10 years. Climate change was considered the next significant trend, and “increasing polarization of the societies” the third.
Last year, Oxfam said that the world’s 62 richest billionaires were as wealthy as half the world’s population. Its executive director, Winnie Byanyima, said: “It is obscene for so much wealth to be held in the hands of so few when one in 10 people survive on less than $2 a day. Inequality is trapping hundreds of millions in poverty: it is fracturing our societies and undermining democracy.”
One of the most heartfelt tragedies unfolding at the moment is the extent of the famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria, where together 20 million people are living in a state of starvation. Worldwide, 795 million people (one in nine) are undernourished.
In Canada, 30,000 people are homeless every night. It is reported that there are now 166 homeless in St John’s. In 1989, the House of Commons promised to eliminate child poverty in Canada by 2000. Today there are more children living in poverty than ever at 1.3 million (one in five).
There has always been inequality and poverty. The difference today is that we know how extensive it is. Also, there is enough wealth on the planet for everyone to have enough, and we have the means to distribute it. Will this disparity ever change?
Lacking are the moral indignation, the public outrage, the collective will and the strong leadership needed to make change. What will make a difference? Everett Hobbs writes from Conception Bay South
“There has always been inequality and poverty. The difference today is that we know how extensive it is.”