According to global wealth report released last year, the richest one percent people now own more than half of the wealth of the world. Besides, given the recent report “An Economy Of the 1 Percent” unveiled by Oxfam, wealth inequality has grown to such an extent where 62 of the world’s richest persons have accumulated wealth equivalent to that of the poorest half of the humanity combined.
The report also unearthed that the wealth of the poorest close to half of the world’s population - more or less 3.6 billion people - has fallen dramatically by 40 percent over the last three decades. The message is crystal clear – the poor is becoming poorer and the rich richer and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening alarmingly day by day.
Income disparity has been a major topic of discourse amongst the economists, sociologists and philanthropists across the world for quite some time now. However, an humble person as I am, the issue perturbs me to a single and simple existential question: Do we want to live in a world where one percent owns more wealth than half of the total world population and a large segment of the people living in poverty with result social injustice, discrimination deprivation and insecurity escalating day after day? Apart from the social implication, there remain two cardinal areas of major concerns. In a world where sociologists and political analysts, in general, are forcefully advocating democracy and equal rights for all citizens, it is frightening to imagine that 62 people wield so much clout (wealth being the major determinant of power) over the rest without being accountable in any real sense. Last year the leaders of the developed countries assembled in the pristine environment of Davos aimed at attending the conference of D-8 (an economic development forum of world’s most leading developed countries). Interestingly, the focus of the conference was mainly on economic growth, equity, if discussed at all, being a topic of lesser importance.
The second question more pertinent and more real to all of us is the prevailing flagrant income disparity that can trigger a socio- political turmoil. When the bottom segment of the society is denied of their basic needs, they will certainly end up feeling dejected, disillusioned and exploited. The obvious casualty is social cohesion and amity, leading to ever-deepening grievance and estrangement. Unfortunately, the electronic and print media tend to mount social tension by over-publicising the astounding wealth generating success and life style of the celebrities. Seldom does one find the media highlighting the ethos, the middle class values such as hard work, creativity, philanthropic and humanitarian exploits of the unsung heroes. The result is escalating frustration and widespread resentment in the society.
Indeed, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up in an era where life is relatively simple, family bond is strong, expectation was manageable and dreams were attainable. Inequalities were less visible and communities would care about their fellow members. Regrettably, today’s social pattern has brought a negative or otherwise a nonchalant trend on emotional responses and there seems to have been a free fall in empathy and compassion.
Now we seriously concerned about the growing insensitivities to social injustices accompanying the current model of “Economic Growth”. It is distressing to see that a section of political leaders across the world tend to believe that poor are the victim of their own choices, not the miss-governance, and the incompetence or “poor work ethics” at the core of their misfortune. The dictum that prosperity will trickle down is a sheer bluff to overlook the issue. The crux of the problem is that inequitable distribution of wealth is largely the fallout of national and global policies that have so far done little to reduce the income gap with result the rift between the haves and haves not have been widening than ever before. The prevailing socio-economic system are being adroitly manipulated by the wealthy people suiting to their vested interest. The wealthy segment is reaping the benefit of economic growth blatantly with few checks and balances being existent.
The top one percent may not bother about the plight of the rest of the world because they are hell-bent on maximising profit, because they have access to best abodes, best doctors, best education and the most importantly luxurious lifestyle. But no matter how impregnable the super rich make themselves, their destiny is inseparably linked with the reality of how other 99 percent survive. They can’t escape the looming ominous sign arising from the current corrosive global order which forcefully calls for immediate overhaul – the overhaul that can positively narrow down the income inequality and the gap between the haves and have-nots.
The super rich people must go through some serious and genuine introspection and ask themselves: Do we want our children to live in such a divisive, discriminatory and unstable world?
The writer is a retired Deputy General Manager, BSCIC, Khulna. Gmail: firstname.lastname@example.org