Consensus On Inequality: So What’s the Plan?

Written by Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America in the Huffington Post blog.

If we continue down the same path of austerity, tax policies, and investment opportunities written by and for the wealthy, we will continue to undermine the best efforts of people trying to work their way out of poverty.

World leaders gathered in Washington, DC at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) spring meetings earlier this month to discuss the state of the global economy. The good news is that the leaders of these iconic institutions are on record acknowledging that growing inequality is a threat to economic growth and to serious efforts to eliminate extreme poverty. Yet neither institution offered concrete steps to address it.

In two major plenary panels, it was undisputed that we live in a world of extremes. About 67 people now own approximately half of the world’s wealth — assets equal to those of 3.5 billion of the world’s poorest people.

What’s becoming clear is that in today’s global financial system the rules are rigged in favor of the very rich, and hard working poor families around the globe are finding it impossible to make ends meet. If we continue down the same path of austerity, tax policies and investment opportunities written by and for the wealthy, we will continue to undermine the best efforts of people trying to work their way out of poverty, limit social mobility and restrain growth.

In a session “Sharing Prosperity, Delivering Results” with World Bank President Jim Kim, Director of Earth Institute Jeffrey D. Sachs, and World Bank Economist Kaushik Basu, the overall message was clear that moral conscience to address inequality is finally lining up with the economic proof. As Dr Sachs put it, “morals are not mush, there is no excuse for extreme poverty” and we need to view addressing inequality as a serious moral challenge.

Addressing inequality, as Dr. Jim Kim suggested we that we should recruit more people pinstriped suits to talk about money in the billions and even trillions of dollars as only a small portion of income the world’s wealthiest could invest wisely in health and education programs. This would have an enormous positive impact on the most poor. Simply by employing measures that would shut down off-shore tax havens and end corporate tax dodging, which costs developing nations $100 billion per year, we could make a difference.

The World Bank’s willingness to focus on the bottom 40 percent is more than welcomed, but I could not help but noticing that the Bank refuses to say anything about the top 10 percent. Taxes, for example, were completely missing from the discourse. The assumption is that if we can measure progress among the bottom 40 percent, it means that we are intervening successfully to affect inequality. Not all would agree.”

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1 Comment on "Consensus On Inequality: So What’s the Plan?"

  1. Human resourcefulness is the ultimate resource. I am a doctor with over 30 years of experience and I know that funding is limited. What is not limited is human resourcefulness. That is why we see people that still get sustainable results and improve the quality of health care delivery IN SPITE OF the lack of funding and changing donors’ priorities and programs. Every human being has the right to highest attainable standard of health. We have the knowledge and resources to make this work. I believe it is about stop making excuses and figure out ways to realize that right for everyone everywhere. It is simple, not easy but simple. We just need to ask ourselves, global health development professional the hard questions. For example:
    1. Do global health projects have to last several years? How about getting results in just 100 days?
    2. Can we predict exactly the results a global health project will achieve? How about guaranteed results?
    3. Do all global health projects have to have expensive mid-term and final evaluations? How about an ongoing system that monitors progress and evaluates results in real time?
    4. Why are most global health projects delivering unsustainable solutions? How about creating a system that delivers sustainable solutions every time?
    5. Does all training have to be expensive and take health providers out of their work? How about continuous training on the job that supports health providers to implement changes and improvements?
    6. Do all projects have to focus on one disease or health problem? How about quality healthcare that meets the needs of every community?
    7. Do global health projects always need to be followed by another project that does more of the same? How about designing projects that have an inbuilt successful exit strategy?

    Let’s break with business as usual and really talk development as a human right. It is.

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