DC Edit | Davos pricks rich consciences
It’s that time of the year again when the Alpine ski slopes of Davos remind humanity of the slippery slope of inequity that smothers the current eight billion people of the planet. When the super rich, the influential and leaders of a few nations, industry and economists meet — in person this time — they can see more clearly the grim realities of the world’s collective development models that focus on macroeconomic success rather than on human development and social welfare indicators.
It cannot be right that the richest one per cent of India own more than 40 per cent of the wealth while the bottom half shares just three per cent of it, which too is whittled down every day by the rising cost-of-living. The inequality is blatant when seen in absolute terms, even if at least half of the poor 50 per cent are better off in the third decade of the new millennium than they were when the idea of philosophising on the world’s economy began in earnest in the Swiss village.
By pricking the conscience of the rich to whom inflation may mean very little, NGOs like Oxfam must fill their coffers to be able to keep studying how awry the distribution of global wealth is. It is, however, a curse that governments are never keen to do more in the interest of the poorest by listening to the voices of the best economists and thinkers and tweaking their models towards more equitable human development.
It stands to reason that a small development index tax on the rich, old and nouveau, would help close the gap on education and healthcare costs that governments of any ideological persuasion must bear to grow their societies. There is one quality that can help humanity think and act better — tax honesty. It is a known fact that if the rich, despite their propensity to log air miles in their private jets while not caring for their large carbon footprints, were conscientious in not using taxation loopholes and tax havens, there may be more money that countries can use to invest in the poorest.
Davos, as a talking shop at a time of the big war in Europe, may be less relevant as major leaders choose to stay away, but the one service it renders is to show where we have gone wrong. The point is, are the world’s political leaders prepared to accept that there are ways to lessen historical iniquities?