Those who have and those who have not

The Compass - - Editorial -

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%” (, 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.”

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