Simple arithmetic hardly sets sums for students, even in hypothetical terms, where the number 62 is equal to 3.5 billion. But in real world, one such equation exists right now. Only 62 richest people in the world today own as much wealth as half of the planet's population. The size of the population now stands roughly at 7.0 billion and its half is 3.5 billion. This certainly is a grim picture of the world where leaders wax eloquent on bridging the gap between the rich and the poor.
This is not an ideal place where one individual has in his or her possession wealth equivalent to that of 57,000,000 others on this planet. This picture is likely to be even more archaic and grimmer when the comparison is made between the rich and poor of the developed and developing worlds. The wretchedness of the poorest in developing society beggars description. Their sub-human condition is hardly captured by any study on a global scale.
What is still more worrying is the fact that wealth, according to the Oxfam which has been keeping a tab on the trend of wealth creation and accumulation, has increasingly been getting accumulated in fewer hands. This is evident from the past few years' pattern. In 2010, 388 super rich individuals owned as much as the world's poorest half. Calculated in the same way it was found that only one per cent of the rich possesses the amount the rest 99 per cent of the planet's population does.
Now if the trend continues, perhaps the richest 10 or even fewer of them will soon have at their disposal equal to, or even more than, what the poorest 50 per cent will do. How it has happened is presented by the Oxfam: an increase of 44 per cent in rich people's wealth since 2010 has taken their cumulative total to $1.76 trillion in 2015. During the same period, wealth of the poorest 50 per cent has shrunk by 41 per cent. The period also witnessed an addition of 400 million people to the total. On the contrary, the wealth of the richest 62 grew in absolute terms by $500 billion to $1.76 trillion.
Clearly, despite tall talks of socio-economic justice, the economic policies and theories put forward and pursued look imperfect. The trickle-down benefits that were supposed to reduce economic disparities through generating employment and raising purchasing capacity of workers in society have proved a myth. State policies and programmes mostly favour the rich instead of the poor. Why the poor are sidelined by economic growth theories is not far to seek. Social transition from farm economy to industrial one has always enjoyed favourable treatment because of the capacity for mass production and its related benefits.
In countries where manufacturing industries have failed to take off at the expected level, multinational companies have captured the market through aggressive marketing campaign. A complying local business class has also been created in order to sustain the colonial nature of business. In countries like Bangladesh till today, the moneyed class is more interested in import than investing in industrial plants. Of late the situation has changed to some extent with entrepreneurs coming forward to set up factories and industries.
The Oxfam recommends a major tax reform in order to stem the rot. In this task the political leaders and business leaders need to come to a point to abolish tax holiday, tax rebate and similar other concessions. Sure enough, tax is but only a part of the problem. What needs to be looked into is the sharing of the benefits or the percentage of profit made by the industries and businesspeople; if the prices of commodities remain at a rational level. Money should bring money. But how much and at what rate? Shouldn't there be a rational ceiling beyond which any rate will officially be declared illegal?
Pervasive inequality simply refuses to go if the political dispensation fails to overlook interests of commercial lobbies and set the tone of a just society based on human dignity. Where people do not even have enough to eat and educate their children, inequality becomes endemic for generations. How much the government and society are ready to pull the disadvantaged segments out of the rut actually decides the course of a nation.
Today's advanced nations were not so even before the 18th century industrial revolution. Western nations set out for business but ended up colonising lands in Asia and Africa. The exodus from Europe to North America was primarily necessitated by want. Wealth pillaged from the Indian Sub-continent not only financed the early days' industrialisation in Great Britain but also the colonisation in the United States of America.
In today's world such colonisation by military power is rather absurd but business colonisation still goes on. Some countries are breaking free from such yoke but still the pressure is on. It is against such a background, policies and plans have to be adopted for giving the benefits of economic growth to the maximum number of people. If the economic disparities continue to yawn, the reaction can be nasty and so powerful that the castle of happiness built by the elite will tumble at the first strike. This cannot be to anyone's -- either rich or poor -- interest. There is only one world to share. Its resources are good enough to sustain more people than the population now inhabits it.