In the last decade, Nepal, along with countries of similar stature, has drastically reduced the level of poverty from 42 percent to below 25. However, judging by the social index alone cannot bring the real picture to view.
As the absolute of percentage of poverty declines, there is a growing inequality among the different strata of population in Nepal, as is found in other countries. Various studies conducted by different agencies reveal the economic inequality among rural and urban population and urban poor and urban rich.
At a time when the Nepalese policy makers have been talking about the economic inequality, the recently released report has alarmingly revealed how the economy of the world was captured by a small fraction of the rich people.
The report, An economy for the 99%, discloses how economy is captured by the rich few, with over ninety-nine percent of the people sharing just a tiny amount of money.
“It’s time to build a human economy that benefits everyone, not just the privileged few,” said the report. In the function organized by OXFAM-Nepal, in collaboration with Humanitarian Accountability Initiative (HAMI), scholars, political leaders, experts and civil society members discussed the issues of growing inequalities in the world and Nepal.
“The OXFAM’s report is an eye opener for us. It indicates how structural inequalities are growing around the world and how few people are controlling huge resources,” said Hari Sharma, a political scientist. “The time has come to review the achievement made by Nepal in poverty reduction.”
New estimates show that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. As growth benefits the richest, the rest of society – especially the poorest – suffers.
“The very design of our economies and the principles of our economics have taken us to this extreme, unsustainable and unjust point. Our economy must stop excessively rewarding those at the top and start working for all people. Accountable and visionary governments, businesses that work in the interest of workers and producers, a valued environment, women’s rights and a strong system of fair taxation, are central to this more human economy,” states the report.
Chaired by coordinator of HAMI Min Bahadur Shahi, the function featured former finance minister and CPN-UML leader Surendra Pandey, who said reducing poverty and inequalities of distribution of poverty are two different issues. “Nepal has seen growing inequalities among the urban and rural population. This report has been published in the right time,” said Pandey.
It is four years since the World Economic Forum identified rising economic inequality as a major threat to social stability, and three years since the World Bank twinned its goal for ending poverty with the need for shared prosperity. Since then, and despite world leaders signing up to a global goal to reduce inequality, the gap between the rich and the rest has widened.
“As a political worker, I have been feeling this for long. OXFAM’s report opens our eyes. I can feel and see the economic disparities in my own country and globally,” said NP Saud, former minister and leader of Nepali Congress.
Presenting the state of the last decade, former member of National Planning Commission and economist Dr. Dilli Khanal suggested how Nepal needs to change the structural issues to narrow down the gap.
Participated in by over 100 members of civil society, economists, women activists, politicians and others from different walks of life, the event hosted intensive debates on the report.
As President Obama told the UN General Assembly in his departing speech in September 2016, a world where 1% of humanity controls as much wealth as the bottom 99% will never be stable.
The report says that the global inequality crisis continues unabated: Since 2015, the richest 1% has owned more wealth than the rest of the planet.
Eight men now own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of the world. Over the next 20 years, 500 people will hand over $2.1 trillion to their heirs – a sum larger than the GDP of India, a country of 1.3 billion people.
The incomes of the poorest 10% of people increased by less than $3 a year between 1988 and 2011, while the incomes of the richest 1% increased 182 times as much. A FTSE-100 CEO earns as much in a year as 10,000 people working in garment factories in Bangladesh.
In the US, new research by economist Thomas Piketty shows that over the last 30 years the growth in the incomes of the bottom 50% has been zero, whereas incomes of the top 1% have grown 300%.
In Vietnam, the country’s richest man earns more in a day than the poorest person earns in 10 years. Left unchecked, growing inequality threatens to pull our societies apart.
The World Bank is clear that without redoubling the efforts to tackle inequality, world leaders will miss their goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
An Economy for the 99% looks at how large corporations and the super-rich are driving the inequality crisis and what can be done to change this. It considers the false gap between the poor and rich people, for example in Kenya, which is sometimes very humiliating.