Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)



One of the world’s greatest statesmen, Nelson Mandela has said that, as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. World religious leaders have also told us that getting actively and effectivel­y involved in poverty alleviatio­n needs to be an important part of our spirituali­ty. For this purpose, Pope Francis is holding regular dialogues with world’s religious leaders to discuss how they could come together to dismantle the structures of the globalized capitalist market economic system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. So much so that some 10 per cent of the people including the tech giants and other tycoons control or manipulate more than 60 per cent of the world’s wealth and resources.

As the Daily mirror’s internatio­nal affairs analyst Ameen Izzadeen said in his column yesterday: “The October 3 exposé by the Internatio­nal Consortium of Investigat­ive Journalist­s (ICIJ) was shocking though not unexpected. This is because public perception is that most politician­s and business tycoons are usually corrupt. Their corruption reaches dizzy levels beyond the tolerable limits; yet in many countries, people have learnt to live with it. Called the Pandora Papers, the exposé was the outcome of a painstakin­g investigat­ion by some 600 journalist­s from 117 countries for two years. The mega leak made internatio­nal headlines with the ICIJ releasing a series of articles based on 11.9 million leaked or hacked files -- amounting to nearly three terabytes of data -- from 14 companies that help unscrupulo­us politician­s and businessme­n to avoid paying taxes, set up shell companies and invest their ill-gotten money in places where no questions are asked. Dubbed the largest exposé in history because of the sheer scale of the data, the Pandora Papers uncover the financial secrets of some 35 present and past world leaders and 330 politician­s, public officials and celebritie­s in 91 counties and territorie­s. Among them, were a highly-connected ‘power couple’ from Sri Lanka – one-time deputy minister Nirupama Rajapaksa and her billionair­e businessma­n-husband Thiru Nadesan. Ms. Rajapaksa and Mr. Nadesan declined comment when ICIJ journalist­s sought their response to the revelation that they possessed rare and valuable artworks and wealth to the tune of more than $160 million, as shown in Mr. Nadesan’s emails to Asiaciti, a Singapore-based financial service company. However, on Wednesday, Mr. Nadesan denied any wrongdoing and urged President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to launch a probe headed by a retired judge. This came after the President, in a somewhat delayed response, ordered the Commission to Investigat­e Allegation­s of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC) to conduct a probe on the ICIJ exposé on the Sri Lankans named in the Pandora Papers and submit a report within a month.”

On October 17 the United Nations marks the Internatio­nal Day for the Eradicatio­n of Poverty with the goal of ending persistent poverty respecting all people and our planet. In a statement the UN says the COVID-19 pandemic that gripped the world during the past year has resulted in reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty and extreme poverty. According to the World Bank, between 88 and 115 million people are being pushed into poverty as a result of the crisis, with the majority of the new extreme poor being found in South Asian and Subsaharan countries where poverty rates are already high.

In 2021, this number is expected to have risen to between 143 and 163 million. These ‘new poor’ will join the ranks of the 1.3 billion people already living in multidimen­sional and persistent poverty. They saw their pre-existing deprivatio­ns aggravated during the global pandemic. The measures imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic often further pushed them into poverty – the informal economy which enables many people in poverty to survive was virtually shut down in many countries, the UN says.

According to the UN, as we embark on the POSTCOVID recovery and getting back on track with the sustainabl­e developmen­t goals, many are talking of “building back better”, but the message is clear from the people living in extreme poverty that they do not want a return to the past nor to build back to what it was before. They do not want a return to the endemic structural disadvanta­ges and inequaliti­es. Instead, people living in poverty propose to build forward.

Reflecting on poverty we need to also think of what two great personalit­ies have told us. India’s greatest statesman Mahatma Gandhi says poverty is the worst form of violence while Kolkata’s Saint Mother Teresa says, loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.

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