Oxfam says world’s 100 richest people could end #poverty #mustshare


 
UK-based charity says the world’s 100 richest people earned enough in 2012 to end global poverty four times over.
 

The world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years [EPA]
The world’s 100 richest people earned enough money last year to end world extreme poverty four times over, according to a new report released by international rights group and charity Oxfam.

The $240 billion net income of the world’s 100 richest billionaires would have ended poverty four times over, according to the London-based group’s report released on Saturday.

The group has called on world leaders to commit to reducing inequality to the levels it was at in 1990, and to curb income extremes on both sides of the spectrum.

The release of the report was timed to coincide with the holding of the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.

The group says that the world’s richest one percent have seen their income increase by 60 percent in the last 20 years, with the latest world financial crisis only serving to hasten, rather than hinder, the process.

“We sometimes talk about the ‘have-nots’ and the ‘haves’ – well, we’re talking about the ‘have-lots’. […] We’re anti-poverty agency. We focus on poverty, we work with the poorest people around the world. You don’t normally hear us talking about wealth. But it’s gotten so out of control between rich and poor that one of the obstacles to solving extreme poverty is now extreme wealth,” Ben Phillips, a campaign director at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera.

‘Global new deal’

“We can no longer pretend that the creation of wealth for a few will inevitably benefit the many – too often the reverse is true,” said Jeremy Hobbs, an executive director at Oxfam.

“Concentration of resources in the hands of the top one per cent depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else – particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

“In a world where even basic resources such as land and water are increasingly scarce, we cannot afford to concentrate assets in the hands of a few and leave the many to struggle over what’s left.”

Hobbs said that “a global new deal” is required, encompassing a wide array of issues, from tax havens to employment laws, in order to address income inequality.

Closing tax havens, the group said, could yield an additional $189bn in additional tax revenues. According to Oxfam’s figures, as much as $32 trillion is currently stored in tax havens.

In a statement, Oxfam warned that “extreme wealth and income is not only unethical it is also economically inefficient, politically corrosive, socially divisive and environmentally destructive.”

 

Inequality is the Issue – P.Sainath on World Economic Forum


The comforting thing about the sham wrestling ‘championships’ on television is that everybody knows they are a farce. Steroid-stuffed Cro-Magnons stomp the living daylights out of painkiller-primed Neanderthals. Good, unclean fun. The results are safely predictable. You should expect the 600-pound gorilla to overwhelm the 900-pound one in a staggering twist of fortune (after the bets have been laid). But the audience, the organisers, and the fighters all know the fighting is rigged and everyone’s happy.

There were many, pre-television Indian symbols of this honourable tradition. As school kids, we cheered wildly as Black Spider brutally crushed Red Spider’s brother in an open-air bout. The roaring crowd dispersed only after Red Spider jumped into the ring to promise us he would throttle Black Spider in a revenge match the next week, so buy your tickets in advance. (He then toddled off to dinner with Black Spider). At age 8, it was magical.

Decades later, television has given sham ‘wrestling’ giant audiences, made it more spectacular, but perhaps less convincing. (The close-ups are a dead giveaway). But almost everybody still knows what to take seriously and what not to. That, and the fact that they entertain more people, are what demarcate the world wrestling extravaganzas from the World Economic Forum. (Both, otherwise, fully corporate enterprises). The wrestling corporations take the money seriously. The World Economic Forum takes itself seriously, besides the money.

The WEF‘s first ever summit in Mumbai ended on the 14th Nov . Its main organiser was the Confederation of Indian Industry. But both the Centre and the Maharashtra government came out in “support.” The Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and Kerala (both States reporting rising farm suicides) hosted ‘cultural evenings’ and/or expensive dinners for this billionaires club, besides providing other forms of ‘support.’ The WEF’s May 31 press release announcing Mumbai as the venue had this mysterious line: “The Summit will return to New Delhi in 2012 and 2014 in time for India’s next national election.” Wow, is the WEF running for office? And why shift from Delhi to Mumbai? Was it embarrassing for a government drowning in corporate corruption and scams to “host” the corporate world’s Croesus Club in the capital?

And so, the governments that cannot add a few hundred rupees per quintal to desperate paddy or cotton growers find the means to subsidise the global billionaire fraternity. Union Ministers and Chief Ministers came down to the Grand Hyatt in Mumbai to reaffirm support.

But why? What exactly does the WEF deliver to India? Or anybody? Has it brought you staggering investments? Unlike the sham wrestling world, the WEF can predict nothing safely. (And they’re hardly entertaining). When did this crowd ever get anything right? Did it warn you of the 2008 meltdown or the Euroquake? ( It did grimly observe in Mumbai that Europe is in trouble. Gee. The rest of us would never have suspected that).

Dean Baker puts it so well: “Economic forecasters are not workers like dishwashers and cab drivers who are held accountable for the quality of their work. They can be wrong every day about everything and face little risk to their career prospects.” ( CounterPunch , August 25, 2011).

However, by WEF standards, the Mumbai show was a bit subdued. The U.S. and Europe are reeling in crisis driven by the very economics the WEF stands for. India was still rising but not shining. Even the Planning Commission-driven India Human Development Report admits: “the average percentage of undernourished children under five years for 26 Sub-Saharan African countries was 25 per cent, about half the Indian average of 46 per cent. Weight and height of Indians on average have not shown significant improvement over the last 25 years.”

India’s rank in the 2011 Global Hunger Index, at 67 out of 81, places us seven notches below Rwanda which apparently handles food security better. We’re also below Sri Lanka (rank 36), Nepal (54) and Pakistan (59). The GHI 2011 states flatly that its data “does not reflect the impacts of the 2010-11 food price crisis.”

And the country gracing the top five when it comes to dollar billionaires now ranks 134th in the 2011 U.N. Human Development Report. Our over 55 billionaires grew their wealth at an astonishing rate in the post-1991 era. And there’s the India story: the consciously constructed, ruthlessly engineered inequality of it. Just see our HDI Value in the UNHDR. It reads 0.548. Adjusted for inequality, this value falls by close to 30 per cent. India’s ‘multi-dimensionally poor’ now exceed 612 million, as the report shows us.

But debates over India’s dismal performance in giving its people the basic minimums always evade the policy framework of the past 20 years that has driven such levels of inequality. You can blame ‘tardy implementation,’ ‘poor delivery,’ anything — except the policies that have devastated hundreds of millions of poor Indians. And, of course, there is not even censure for the top guns and whizz kids.

As Baker points out, for this kind of group, there are no bad consequences. If you think that disastrous failures would hurt their record “then you don’t understand economic forecasting. There is no reason to believe that forecasters are any more knowledgeable about the economy today than they were four or five years ago.”

Need a good Indian illustration of this? Take Planning Commission deputy chief Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Finance Ministry Chief Economic Adviser Kaushik Basu and their multiple predictions on the economy, particularly on inflation. (Which, says CRISIL, forced Indians to spend close to Rs. 6 lakh crores extra in 36 months). With inflation close to double digits and food inflation at 10.63 per cent, they now admit, sort of, that we were, ahem, not quite as right as we are normally known to be. But we will, umm … probably will return to being right in the near future.

Dr. Ahluwalia even admits to credibility issues popping up. “It is true that we were hoping that this [moderation in inflation] will happen earlier, to that extent our credibility becomes a question.” ( The Times of India , Nov. 21, 2011). And straightaway makes another prediction — “inflationary pressure would ease from the beginning of next year.”

Dr. Basu believes it will start declining in December itself. If in February, says Dr. Ahluwalia, the data show that “inflation is not coming down by then, then we really don’t know what we are doing.” India’s human development indicators suggest they haven’t a clue about what they were doing for 20 years. That, however, is not so. They knew what they were doing. Constructing a world based on a trickle-down, greed-is-good, inequality-helps philosophy. It made things much worse, though not for the authors of the mess.

The WEF has gone. This time, it did not get the kind of publicity to which it is accustomed. Which brings us to the media. Who has been paying for, or heavily subsidising, the large contingents of Indian media that do the Davos Drool each year? Answer: Indian industry, which likes to have its cheerleading team along. Some of the rent-a-report crowd is from media outlets which will not spend a few thousand rupees to send a journalist to cover huge issues of hunger within the country. Switzerland is an expensive place. And Davos is at its costliest in the WEF season. Yet several Indian journalists seem to afford it.

Quite a few have had their costs, including air travel and more, covered by industry lobbies, many of whose members are major advertisers and a big source of media revenue. There are newspapers that have given Davos summits far more coverage than they have the most vital bills before Parliament. There are channels that have had “partnerships” with the CII and the WEF to cover Davos (always euphorically). Strong and rigid rules are issued to journalists on how to report. One such instruction: “Please note we cannot say “WEF”… it is the World Economic Forum and one is not allowed to call it otherwise.” Wonder why? Does the acronym WEF sound too much like one of the sham wrestling outfits? Another fatwa from a television group: “the following programming from CII has to be incorporated in the programming of all channels.”

Surely, the audiences watching the completely uncritical coverage of the WEF have a right to be told that the content was sponsored? When the funding is not clearly stated, when the content heavily favours the sponsor, when criticism is unknown, when correspondents are told how to fulfil their duties to their “partners’ — this is what is called Paid News. But there is a pact of silence about this. A fine example of the kind of ‘self-regulation’ that media bosses have in mind?

The organisers, lobbies, funders, the media — all know what’s happening. But not, in this case, the audiences, readers or viewers. Where are you, Black Spider and Red Spider? All is forgiven, come home.

The audience, organisers, and fighters know that sham wrestling is not to be taken seriously. But the World Economic Forum takes itself seriously. (Appeared in Hindu novemebr 2011)

India has the most toxic air: Study


It is official: India has the world’s most toxic air.

In a study by Yale and Columbia Universities, India holds the very last rank among 132 nations in terms of air quality with regard to its effect on human health.

India scored a miniscule 3.73 out of a possible 100 points in the analysis, lagging far behind the next worst performer, Bangladesh, which scored 13.66. In fact, the entire South Asian region fares badly, with Nepal, Pakistan and China taking up the remaining spots in the bottom five of the rankings.

These rankings are part of a wider study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

In the overall rankings — which takes 22 policy indicators into account — India fared minimally better, but still stuck in the last ten ranks along with environmental laggards such as Iraq, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. At the other end of the scale, the European nations of Switzerland, Latvia and Norway captured the top slots in the index.

India’s performance over the last two years was relatively good in sectors such as forests, fisheries, biodiversity and climate change. However, in the case of water — both in terms of the ecosystem effects to water resources and the human health effects of water quality — the Indian performance is very poor.

The Index report was presented at the World Economic Forum currently taking place in Davos, where it’s being pitched as a means to identify the leaders and the laggards on energy and environmental challenges prior to the iconic Rio+20 summit on sustainable development to be held in Brazil this June.

By- Priscilla Jebaraj- The Hindu

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