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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

"The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering"

Big but not surprising news as the World Economic Forum convenes its annual meeting in the Swiss mountains.

Wealth accumulated by the richest one percent will exceed that of the other 99 percent in 2016, the Oxfam charity said Monday, ahead of the annual meeting of the world’s most powerful at Davos, Switzerland.

“The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast,” Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima said.

How fast? In 2009, the wealthiest one percent held 44 percent of global wealth. Last year— just five years later—that share had risen to 48 percent. It will top 50 percent next year. Austerity works! The average wealth of the global one percent is $2.7 million, but given the staggering wealth of the very wealthiest, that means that it takes much less than that to qualify. And that hints at the breadth and depth of global poverty. As does this:

Of the remaining 52 percent, almost all—46 percent—is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population, leaving the other 80 percent to share just 5.5 percent with an average wealth of $3,851 (3,330 euros) per adult, the report says.

Let's repeat that: 80 percent of the adults in the world have an average wealth of $3,851.

The Guardian has more:

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International and one of the six co-chairs at this year’s WEF, said the increased concentration of wealth seen since the deep recession of 2008-09 was dangerous and needed to be reversed.

In an interview with the Guardian, Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders.

“The message is that rising inequality is dangerous. It’s bad for growth and it’s bad for governance. We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for.”

The question for all political leaders is what they intend to do about it. The most devious and cynical will try to co-opt it for their own self-servicing purposes, but we need answers from those who genuinely care about it.