Article en català: Intermon Oxfam i la desigualtat global
Last January, Intermon Oxfam (IO) presented the report Working for the Few: Political capture and economic inequality. Among other figures, the report highlights that the 85 richest people around the world own the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people. However, apart from this stunning data that hit the headlines , there is the important idea that an increasing inequality is allowing wealthy elites to control political power and, consequently, undermining democracy. Oxfam reminds us that different international organization and forums present inequality as a threat to social stability and global security.
Even if this phenomenon is now more obvious, many authors have written about that before. In 2009, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett published an interesting book called The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better. In that book, they put forward the idea that from a certain wealth level, inequality is more decisive for societies than poverty. In other words, that the difference between the richest people and the poorest people has much more impact on welfare than poverty. Another interesting conclusion of their studies is that an unequal society affects negatively both the poorest and the richest. So, not only the most disadvantaged but also the richest should be interested in having an equal society.
Back to the IO’s report, the NGO shows clearly the main elements that have caused the acceleration of inequality. These are: “financial deregulation, tax havens and secrecy, anti-competitive business practice, lower tax rates on high incomes and investments and cuts or underinvestment in public services for the majority”. Not without reason, these are the steps recommended by the Washington Consensus, considered the main recipe of the economic liberalism.
On the other hand, IO has launched some recommendations that Governments should adopt in order to reverse this negative trend. Some of them are to support progressive taxation, refrain from using their wealth to seek political favours and adopt transparent policies in both the political and economical fields. All in all, those are measures that should favour the major part of the population with more rights and democracy, at the expense of the enrichment of a minority.
Reports like Working for the few gives concerned people a breath because it shows that this topic is included in the international political agenda by one of the most important NGOs. Nevertheless, since this report was published prior to the World Economic Forum, I have serious doubts on the real attention that it received by the elites meeting there. Did the world leaders take it seriously and renounce to a part of their wealth? Or did they just act politely giving nice speeches announcing measures that will be never applied?
Let’s see how inequality evolves during the following years.
Vídeo Intermón i Desigualtat: