Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 506

Read Editorial with D2G – Ep 506

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Troubling trends: On widening inequality

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Meanings are given in BOLD

The world economy is slowly recovering from the devastation ( great destruction or damage ) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that is only partial solace ( comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness ). The recovery is uneven among countries, and within countries, but the emerging universal truth is that economic inequality is rising sharply in all countries.

A new report by Oxfam has revealed that the 1,000 richest people worldwide recovered their losses from the pandemic within nine months as opposed to the world’s poorest who might take a decade to limp ( walk with difficulty, typically because of a damaged or stiff leg or foot ) back to their pre-pandemic standing. Inequality was alarmingly ( in a worrying or disturbing way ) high and destabilising ( upset the stability of (a region or system); cause unrest or instability in ) social and political order in much of the world even before the pandemic struck.

It is set to further aggravate ( make (a problem, injury, or offence) worse or more serious ), fear 295 economists from 79 countries, commissioned by Oxfam. Inequality in India has risen to levels last seen when it was colonised ( settle among and establish control over (the indigenous people of an area) ). The additional wealth acquired by India’s 100 billionaires since March when the lockdown was imposed ( force (an unwelcome decision or ruling) on someone ) is enough to give every one of the 138 million poorest ₹94,045, according to the report.

An unskilled worker in India would take three years to earn what the country’s richest person earned in one second last year, the report calculates. The worsening inequality in income and opportunities impacts some sections disproportionately ( to an extent that is too large or too small in comparison with something else ) due to discrimination ( recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another ) based on gender, caste and other factors. The poorer people were worst affected by the disease itself.

The focus on growth had led politicians and policy makers to accept rising inequality as inevitable ( certain to happen; unavoidable ) for decades. Inequality came to be seen as a benign ( gentle and kindly ) outcome of economic growth that led to reduction of absolute poverty. Concerns about inequality could also be easily dismissed ( order or allow to leave; send away ) as being informed by socialism.

Any criticism ( the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes ) of capitalism ( an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state ) was viewed with scepticism ( a sceptical attitude; doubt as to the truth of something ) in the mainstream of development debates, until the crisis of capitalism could no longer be ignored.

The literature on capitalism and its linkage with democracy is now growing fast. There is now universal agreement among economists that the distribution of new wealth between capital and labour has become so one-sided that workers are constantly being pushed to penury ( the state of being very poor; extreme poverty ) while the rich are getting richer.

This has social and political consequences as upheavals ( a violent or sudden change or disruption to something ) in democratic societies around the world show. The environmental costs of a development model that hinges ( depend entirely on ) on higher and higher growth are also obvious. On the one hand, there is an acknowledgment of the crisis among capitalist moghuls.

The theme of the World Economic Forum at Davos this week is ‘the Great Reset’ which it says is a “commitment to jointly and urgently build the foundations of our economic and social system for a more fair, sustainable and resilient ( able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions ) future”. On the other, measures that favour capital at the cost of labour continue; for instance, changes in labour laws in several States during the pandemic. Lip service is not enough to tackle inequality.

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