Thursday, 24 January 2013

No to global inequality

In tomorrow’s Cornish Guardian, my latest column will focus on global inequality. It is as follows:

I am presently reading a book entitled “The Spirit Level.” Written by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, this well-researched publication seeks to demonstrate how many of society’s ills are significantly worse in countries which suffer from great inequality.

It is a throught-provoking read and makes startling claims about how the vast majority would benefit – including society as whole – if there was less disparity between the rich and the less-well-off.

And in a similar vein, Oxfam has challenged the World’s political leaders to do more to tackle inequality at this week’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland, demanding a “global new deal to reverse decades of increasing inequality.”

In a new report, the charity states that efforts to tackle poverty are being hindered by an “explosion in extreme wealth,” which it describes as “economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”  

Oxfam also claims that “the 100 richest people in the World earned enough last year to end extreme poverty suffered by the poorest on the planet four times over.” It notes how the World’s 100 most wealthy individuals enjoyed a net income of $240 billion (£150 billion) last year, while those in “extreme poverty” in developing countries struggle through on less than $1.25 (78p) a day.

It is also clear that, over the last twenty years, the incomes of the richest one per cent have increased by 60% while the financial crisis has “accelerated rather than slowed” their wealth generation.

The chief executive of Oxfam, Barbara Stocking, has stated that “we can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true …”

The charity rightly argues that the “accumulation of wealth and income on an unprecedented scale, is at the expense of secure jobs and decent wages for the poorest” which undermines the “ability of people who survive on … low wages to improve their situation and escape poverty.”

And tellingly, Oxfam even suggests that “UK inequality is rapidly returning to levels not seen since the time of Charles Dickens.”

It is my belief that everyone – in Cornwall, in the UK and throughout the wider World – should prioritise ways to make society fairer, more equal, and to better spread the benefits of wealth creation. This is an issue of such significance that it cannot be ignored by politicians of any party.

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