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Shameful inequality

There is an entrenched dissatisfaction among the masses with the failure of the governments to deliver the promises of a fairer distribution of goods and services. The appalling concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people triggers a desire for change.

The Oxfam International report on global inequality coincided with the gathering of the richest personalities of the planet for their annual World Economic Forum in mid-January at the Swiss resort of Davos.

Attending the Davos meeting were chief executives of international corporations, owners of multinationals and government leaders like Xi Jinping, President of China. His participation drew a great deal of attention, as he was the first Chinese leader to attend the annual assembly of the political and financial elite.

The selected participants must have heard of the striking statistics of the Oxfam report, with the title “An economy for the 99 per cent,” that the eight richest men in the world own as much wealth as half of the world’s population. “Obscene,” was how Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, reacted to the latest figure that shows a continuous widening gap between the rich and the poor.

One of the most disturbing findings of the Oxfam document is that the accumulation of riches in a selected few is fuelled by tax evasion and low wages to the workers while bosses receive abundant bonuses and high salaries. Tax dodging, for instance, costs millions of dollars to poor countries that could be otherwise invested in education and health care of children.

This growing inequality partly explains the recent political upheavals in the U.K. with the Brexit, in the U.S. with the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the presidential elections, and the rise of a wave of populism worldwide.

There is an entrenched dissatisfaction among the masses with the failure of the governments to deliver the promises of a fairer distribution of goods and services. The appalling concentration of wealth in the hands of a few people triggers, in the majority poor, a desire for change.

Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) summarizes this popular sentiment of frustration by stating that the actual “socio-economic system is unjust at its root” (n. 53).

A more “human economy” that favors the 99% of the population and not just the 1% is needed, the Oxfam charity proposes. To combat accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few and end global inequality, governments have to increase taxes on wealth and high salaries, pay decent wages to workers and stop tax evasion by corporations.


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