Syed Fattahul Alim |
Dec. 10, 2021, 8:47 p.m.
The Paris-based World Inequality Lab released the 2022 World Inequality Report. It shows the wealth of the world’s billionaires has increased by $ 4 trillion, while an additional 100 million people have joined the ranks. of the poorest. And the wealth of the world’s rich has seen a sharp increase in the 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tendency of the rich to get richer at the expense of tens of millions of others who have become impoverished is a development of the past quarter of a century. It is also the time when it is believed that globalization played its role as a motor of wealth creation across the world. Surprisingly, the rate of extreme poverty has fallen quite a bit over the past 25 years. Interestingly, the digital revolution in technology also took place around the same time. In particular, the Internet has created the possibility of doing business on a global scale with a speed unprecedented in the past. As a result, the transfer of wealth from one corner of the globe to another is also done in the blink of an eye. No wonder, as Forbes magazine acknowledges, out of the 10 richest people in the world, nine of whom are Americans, eight own giant tech companies. Notably, the tech giants are creatures of the Internet age. Amazon, for example, was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos while a decade later, in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg burst onto the scene with his social media portal, Facebook. These tech entrepreneurs could go multibillion in a very short time. They even surpassed their tech predecessors like Microsoft’s Bill Gates or Apple’s late Steve Jobs in the speed of wealth creation. Compared to them, billionaires of yesteryear like Warren Buffet look like the turtle in Aesop’s Fables. And since it is in the nature of capital to accumulate, the popular information superhighways or the Internet have only paved the way for the concentration of wealth in a few hands in the shortest possible time. Since capital is nothing more than the unpaid part of labor put into the creation of wealth by the millions of workers, both green and white collar workers, it is hardly surprising that impoverishment occurs in inverse proportion. of the rise of the richest. capitalists. An interesting finding from the World Inequality Report is the rise of the rich Indians. Although it is still a developing country, one percent of the country’s population holds 20 percent of its national income, while the bottom half of the population earns only 13.1 percent. Consider that 84 million people, or about 6.0% of India’s population, lived until May 2021 in conditions of extreme poverty. Although the report does not cover Bangladesh, there is no reason to believe that the situation here is significantly different from that of its immediate neighbor. However, what is of particular concern in the case of Bangladesh is the accumulation of unearned wealth through corrupt practices such as bribery. There is no doubt that corporations play their part in creating wealth, but here too the power of crony capitalism is more pronounced than that of business carried out through free enterprise. In an environment where free enterprise thrives, people at least get jobs in commerce and manufacturing. But cronyism works in collusion with the political class through influence peddling that distorts the market mechanism of wealth creation and flow. As a result, in this system the concentration of wealth takes place faster than in healthier market-oriented conditions for gaining wealth. Therefore, it is useful neither for the growth of the global economy nor for the workers. But it is the norm in many developing and less developed economies around the world.
Going back to the billionaire world of the North, it has further been observed that Europe is the most equal region with the richest 10 percent taking 36 percent of the income share. Compared to this, the Middle East and North Africa have turned out to be the most unequal regions on the planet. Because in both regions, the richest 10 percent of their population captured 58 percent of the regions’ total income shares. Thus, Europe should have the merit of having achieved a certain degree of equality in the distribution of wealth among the population of the region. But even this equality seems fallacious when you compare the wealth of Europe with that of Africa, many parts of Asia and South America. The income inequality of the common population of Europe and these regions belies the emptiness of such demands for equality. However, the inequality of income distribution in the Middle East or in the less developed economies of Africa, Asia or elsewhere is much more glaring than in the industrially advanced economies of the North.
However, in the regions considered (Middle East, Africa, etc.), the digital mode of wealth generation is not yet dominant. But seeing the world rapidly shifting to renewables to run businesses and industries, the oil economies of the Middle East in particular are also scrambling to change the way they operate from traditional to digital and knowledge-based.
But then, how will the world cope with the growing inequality in the distribution of income globally, regionally and within each individual economy? The question is relevant in this digital age where wealth can be generated and transferred faster than ever in the past. Globalization with the help of the internet has definitely brought people together. But it has also made a few people very rich at the expense of the rest of the world’s population which has become impoverished. While advancements in technology cannot be stopped, social and political scientists must find a way to combat the trend of rising inequalities in society.