Income inequality leads to violence

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

Pope Francis says, in his Apostolic Exhortations, that income inequality is the root of social ills. Unfortunately, while the world – including the very rich – praise him for his charisma and simplicity, they do not take his message seriously. As the Pope said, we must think and feel but we must also “do.”.

The 2015 OXFAM report on wealth inequality is an indictment on the failure of the prevailing economic systems in the world. The Pope has said that he does not believe in the trickle down economic philosophy and  expressed distrust of a free market economy. In his Exhortations ( paragraph 204), he writes: “ We can no longer trust in the unseen forces and the invisible hand of the market.” Is the Pope right? The OXFAM report apparently is evidence that he is more correct than the advocates of a free market system.

According to the OXFAM study, the combined wealth of the richest 1% will be bigger than the combined wealth of the rest of the 99% of the world’s population. Each adult in the top 1% will have an average wealth of $2.7 million. More than one billion people will live on less than $1.25 a day.

Even more shocking is the report that the 80 richest people in the world will have the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. This means that the richest 80 billionaires in the world will have the same wealth as the poorest 3.5. billion people — half of the world’s population.

But how many of the rich are really shocked that we are living in a world where the richest 1% own more wealth than the rest of the world combined? How many really believe that the scale of global inequality is so staggering and concrete steps must be taken to seriously tackle this issue?

How many really believe what Pope Francis said in his Exhortations ( paragraph 202): “The need to resolve the structural causes of poverty cannot be delayed, not only for the pragmatic reason of its urgency for the good order of society, but because society needs to be cured of a sickness which is weakening and frustrating it and which can only lead to new crisis. Welfare projects which meet urgent needs should be considered merely temporary responses. As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems , or for that matter, to any problem.”

This continually increasing gap between the rich and the poor is a worldwide phenomenon. There is a way, however, of measuring how big is the gap between the rich and the poor. Technically this method is called the GINI Index which measures the extent to which the distribution of income from a perfectly equal distribution. The measures ranges from zero to 100.

A value of zero represents absolute equality. A value of 100 represents absolute inequality. This means that the lower the score, the lower is the income inequality. The higher the score, the greater is the income inequality. The World Bank recently released the GINI Index by countries.

It is the Scandanavian countries which have the lowest score or the lesser income inequality. Here are some of the best countries with their corresponding GINI Index: Denmark ( 24.7); Sweden ( 25.0); Norway ( 25.8); Finland ( 26.9); Gremany ( 28.3) and Austria ( 29.2).

The Philippines has a far from ideal score but it ranks with other countries that may surprise some people. Here is the scoring range for certain countries: Indonesia (38.1); Thailand (39.4); United States (40.8); Russia (40.1); China (42.1); Ghana (42.8); Singapore ( 42,48); PHILIPPINES (43.0); Hong Kong ( 43.44); Argentina ( 44.5); Malaysia ( 46.2) and Mexico (48.2).

Among the countries with the highest GINI Index – the worst income inequality – are the following: Chile (52.1); Panama (51.9); Brazil (54.7); Colombia (55.9); Honduras (57.0); Zambia ( 57.5); Haiti (59.2); Central African Republic ( 56.3); Angola (58.6)); South Africa (63.1).

In the recent 2015 World Economic Conference, an international agency presented the following proposals to address income inequality:

1 Clamp down on tax evasion by corporations and rich individuals ;

2. Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education;

3. Shift taxation from labor and consumption towards capital and wealth such as dividends;

4. Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers;

5. Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal;

6.  Ensure adequate safety nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee.

7. Agree on a global goal to tackle income inequality.

What are the consequences of continuing income inequality? Recent riots in the United States, the increase in the number of homegrown jihadists in Europe and Hong Kong street demonstrations have all been partially caused by grievances arising from income inequality.

Pope Francs is very frank when he warns the world, in his Exhortations ( paragraph 59):

“ Today, in many places we see a a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without opportunities, the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode.”

Throughout the history of man periods of great income inequality has caused widespread discontent and revolutions. The world should heed the warning of Pope Francis that income inequality is the root of social ills and will lead to violence.

*      *      *

WRITING CLASS FOR ADULTS?Memoir Writing: A Path to Clarity with Susan Quimpo, co-author and co-editor of Subversive Lives, a family memoir of the Marcos years; a writer, trained counselor and art therapist on Jan. 31 (Sat; 1-5 p.m.) at Fully Booked Bonifacio High Street.

WRITING CLASS FOR KIDS AND TEENS?Young Writers’ Saturday Hangout with Raissa Claire Falgui, author of Hating Kapatid – 2014 Best Reads Title of the National Children’s Book Awards; Young Adult novelist – Woman in a Frame and Love Among the Geeks on Jan 31 (1-2:30 p.m.) at Canadian American School, Alphaland Makati.

Call 0917-6240196 / email: [email protected]

*      *      *

 Email: [email protected]










  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with
no session for state
no session for code
no session for id_token
no session for user