Ahead of the annual boondoggle in Davos, international development organisation, Oxfam has made a series of statements about inequality, poverty and development - all contained in a report entitled The Cost Of Inequality: How Wealth And Income Extremes Hurt Us All. This contains observations such as:
...efforts to tackle poverty were being hindered by an "explosion in extreme wealth".
The richest one per cent of the world's population had increased its income by 60% in the last 20 years, Oxfam said.
It reported that while the world's 100 richest people enjoyed a net income of $240bn (£150bn) last year, people in "extreme poverty" lived on less than $1.25 (78p) a day.
We are, of course, expected to be shocked - deeply shocked - at the injustice of all this, at how there are some very rich people while others are starving. What Oxfam wants us to believe is:
"Concentration of resources in the hands of the top 1% depresses economic activity and makes life harder for everyone else - particularly those at the bottom of the economic ladder."
And that top 1% isn't you and me we're led to believe - it's those evil billionaire capitalists who are stealing the very bread from the mouths of the starving children. Let's leave aside the fact that poverty is largely unrelated to inequality - people do not become rich by making others poor, however often Oxfam want to pretend that this is so. Instead let's remind ourselves who the 1% are in terms of world development and poverty:
The truth is that the entry level income for the world's top 1% of earners is:
$34,000That's it, in real money not a great deal more that £20,000 a year gets you into the 1% club - sits you among the world's filthy rich, among those to blame for all the sins and evil of the world. Capitalist scum.
Most of you reading this blog are in the top 1% sucking up all those resources - depriving the poor in Africa and elsewhere of the chance to grow, to get out of poverty.
Except you're not. Sit back, put a smile on you face - punch the air with joy. You and me - capitalists both - have sat getting a little richer for thirteen years while a billion folk have escaped absolute poverty. All the international trade, all those businesses and those business folk filling the posh seats in aeroplanes flitting across the world - they've done that, they've lifted those people out of poverty.
Oxfam are wrong. Neoliberalism is making all the world richer. Even the UN celebrates that neoliberal success:
"For the first time since records on poverty began, the number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen in every developing region, including sub-Saharan Africa. Preliminary estimates indicate that the proportion of people living on less than $1.25 per day fell in 2010 to less than half the 1990 rate..."
This is what capitalism does. Isn't it wonderful.