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A major ethical scandal. The richest 1% already owns almost half the world

A major ethical scandal. The richest 1% already owns almost half the world

By Bernardo Kliksberg *

The report states that the gap continues to widen. In 2014, the richest 1 percent owned 48 percent of the world's wealth. The remaining 99 percent of the population had only 52 percent. But that is a figure that must be disaggregated. Within the 99 percent, the richest 20 percent had 46.5 percent of that 52. So 80 percent of the planet's inhabitants had only 5.5 percent of the total world heritage.

If the news is alarming, the trends are worse. The share of the richest 1 percent, according to the Credit Suisse wealth database, has been increasing every year since 2010. If the trend continues, they will be more than 50 percent in 2016 and 54 percent in 2016. in 2019. For the remaining 99 percent, only 46 percent will remain in that year, but with the nuance that the richest 20 percent of the 99 percent will also continue to increase their share.

Amid the European crisis and the stagnation of much of the world economy in recent years, the very very rich, whom Oxfam calls "billionaires" because they have billions, have continued to accumulate wealth rapidly. The richest 80 in the world earned between 2011 and 2014, 600,000 billion dollars. In the same period, the income of the poorest 50 percent of the planet's population fell significantly.

This results in the figure that constitutes one of the greatest “ethical scandals” of our time. Eighty people currently have the same as the 3.6 billion poorest people. The figure for 2010. In that year 388 billionaires had a wealth similar to that of half the world's lowest-income population was already an ethical super scandal. In 2011, there were 177 who had half of everything, they were reduced in 2012, to 159, in 2013, to 92, and now to 80. What name can be given to this extreme exacerbation of disparities? Probably the most significant is the one given by the Church's encyclical "Caritas et Veritate", "Hurting Disparities."

What is the profile of billionaires? Oxfam says there were 1,645 in 2014. There were very few women, 90 percent were men. 34 percent had inherited all or part of their fortune.

Twenty percent had interests, were involved in activities or were linked to the financial and insurance sectors. Those 321 billionaires earned between March 2013 to March 2014, 150,000 million dollars. Also notable in that period in earnings were the 90 billionaires who had interests or were active in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. Their combined equity went from $ 170 billion to $ 250,000 in the last year. A profit of 47 percent.

It is possible to face the problem

An increasingly extensive series of investigations, led by Thomas Pikketty among others, have shown the multiple regressive effects of high inequalities on the functioning of the economy, the quality of society, and people's daily lives.

But there are many other invisible ones. Among them, as shown by Pulitzer Prize Winner Nicholas Kristof (The New York Times, 1/29/15), concentration creates a growing distance between the world of the very wealthy and that of ordinary citizens, which reduces the possibility of empathy of the first.

Among other studies, it refers to the fact that the University of California at Berkeley found that those who drive luxury cars are more likely to ignore other motorists and to ignore pedestrians at crossings. It points out that the richest 20 percent of Americans contribute 1.4 percent of their income to charitable causes. And the poorest 20 percent, 3.5 percent of their income.

Kristof argues that "this is due, in part, to the fact that wealth isolates its bearers from needs, so that disadvantaged people become theoretical and remote for them."

It is very useful to grow social empathy, and solidarity causes frequently arise, which must be recognized and promoted.

But the growing gap requires above all public policies that try to influence its structural causes and universally guarantee basic rights, such as food security, drinking water, sanitary facilities, among others.

Oxfam has launched a detailed program called “Equals”.

Among its main points are:

- Include the eradication of extreme inequality among the goals that will replace the millennium goals that end in 2015.

- Make governments work for citizens.

- Promote economic equality and women's rights.

- Pay living wages and reduce the large differences between executive and line salaries. Advance to a ratio of the highest salary to the average salary of 20 to 1.

- Transfer the tax burden of work and consumption to assets, capital and income derived from them.

- Correct the legal gaps in international taxation.

- Achieve universal free public services for all by 2020.

- Ensure everyone's access to medicines.

- Establish a universal social protection base.

A good part of Latin America has implemented policies in these directions in the 21st century and, as ECLAC points out, inequality has dropped. But the problem remains crucial and there are strong economic clouds on the horizon due to the turbulence in the international economic context that may threaten what has been achieved.

It is the region with the worst Gini coefficient of inequality and has 10 of the 15 most unequal countries in the world. Despite progress, the richest 10 percent have 27 times the income of the poorest 10 percent. The strategic investment in education has grown but is far from the necessary, it is only 5.3 percent of the regional Gross Product.

Inequality affects poverty on a daily basis. Internal and external difficulties have led to a stagnation of poverty in recent years. It was 28.1 percent in 2012 and 28 percent in 2014. It amounted in absolute terms by three million people, to 167 million poor. In this period, indigence has increased, from 11.3 percent in 2012 to 12 percent in 2014, and the number of indigent rose from 66 to 71 million.

It is necessary more than ever to deepen countercyclical policies that create equality.

Oxfam International Director Winnie Byanyima asked the world a disturbing question, which should resonate strongly on the most unequal continent: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than everyone else combined? The scale of global inequality is simply staggering. "

* President of the Latin American Network of Universities for Social Entrepreneurship.

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