Accumulation Of Wealth Further Widens The Gap Between The Rich And The Poor

By Dr. Sawraj Singh

The statistics released by Oxfam ahead of the Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, show that accumulation of wealth and the gap between the rich and the poor continues to widen. The wealthiest 62 people own as much as the poorer half of the world’s population (3.5 billion). Their wealth has risen by 44%, while the share of the poorer 3.5 billion fell by 41% since 2010. About half of the super rich live in the US and the other half lives in China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

According to economists, if about $7.6 trillion of individuals’ wealth sits in offshore tax havens and if taxes were paid on the income that this wealth generates, an extra $190 billion would be available to the governments every year. As much as 30% of Africa’s financial wealth is held offshore, costing about $14 billion in lost tax revenues every year. That money can be paid for the healthcare of children and save up to 4 million lives a year. An adequate number of teachers in proportion to population can be employed so that every child can be taught in school.

The number of living in extreme poverty has fallen by 650 millions since 1981 even though the global population has grown by 2 billion. Much of this change is because of China, which alone accounted for more than half a billion (500 million). Contrary to China, India has experienced an increase in the number of people living in poverty. The just-released National Family Health Survey-4 has shown that the effects of child malnutrition remain very alarming. About one-third to one-half of children under five years of age show stunted growth. I have often heard from some of the leftists who claim that China is no different than other capitalist countries. However, these statistics clearly show the difference.

It is quite obvious that out of all countries, the gap in wealth is the maximum in two countries: the U.S. and India. Among the developed countries, the U.S. has the largest wealth gap and among the developing countries, India has the largest gap. We have to try to understand the reasons for this. I feel that in the U.S., racial factors are primarily responsible for this. The poorest people generally belong to minority groups such as Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans. This racial composition of the poor reduces the sensitivity about their plight.

Another factor is cultural. Cultural growth leads to sensitivity and compassion. In America, the cultural growth never reached the level of Europe. It is true that in the current refugee crisis, Europe did not show much concern or compassion for the plight of the refugees. However, the reasons for this were different. Europe was afraid that its European and Christian culture will be challenged by the refugees, who were predominantly African and Arab by race, and Muslim by religion. Fear makes you less sensitive to the plight of others and anger reduces compassion.

India has mostly adopted the American capitalist model of development. However, India does not have an efficient or sophisticated capitalism. The Indian capitalism is inefficient and yet not refined. Another problem is that India has a strong tradition of bureaucracy. Therefore, Indian capitalism can be called Bureaucratic capitalism. Bureaucracy in India has merged with elitism. This mixture of bureaucratic capitalism and the traditional elitism has led to an inefficient and crude capitalism that is easily monopolized by the elite and has very little to offer to the ordinary people.

The results of the Indian capitalist model of development clearly show that it has mostly worked for the elite and the majority of ordinary people have been deprived of its benefits. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the lives of ordinary people have either been untouched or declined under this capitalist model of development. When close to half of the children in a country show stunted growth then it can be concluded that the system is not working for most of the ordinary people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 I feel that the left in India has so far been unable to develop strong roots in the Indian culture and people. They have been also been unable to evolve an alternate model of development based upon the Indian culture and traditions. If they do not want to remain marginalized then they have to establish strong roots in the people and in the Indian culture and traditions. They have to understand that the present Globalization is mostly based upon the American consumerist capitalism. Therefore, India needs an alternate model of development based upon the experience of the Indian people and on the Indian culture and traditions. I feel that Sri Guru Granth Sahib has that alternate model of development based upon universal concern and universal welfare. By following the teachings of Sri Guru Granth Sahib we can adequately address the problems of accumulation of wealth and the widening gap between the rich and the poor. I also feel that Sri Guru Granth Sahib represents the zenith of the Indian philosophy and spirituality.

Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairman of the Washington State Network for Human Rights and Chairman of the Central Washington Coalition for Social Justice. He can be reached at sawrajsingh@hotmail.com.

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