Spread the earth’s wealth! - part II

Published: May 21, 2012

A billion people entered the 21st century unable to read or write, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, 7.6 million children die before their fifth birthday (1 dies every 2 second), and some 1.8 million children die each year due to diarrhoea alone. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: In my earlier article on the same topic, I discussed the mushrooming disparity between the “haves” and “have nots” of this world where the richest citizens earn in less than three days what the poorest citizens earn in an entire year. Global private consumption reflects this disparity as the top 20% of the wealthiest account for 77% of global private consumption while the poorest 20% account for a mere 1.5%. This gap continues to swell as in the last 40 years. This disparity has more than doubled from 30 times to over 74 times and if we the citizens of this world do not address this issue head-on the disparity will continue to rise to unmanageable levels.

The impact of this disparity is nothing less than shocking: A billion people entered the 21st century unable to read or write, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, 7.6 million children die before their fifth birthday (1 dies every 2 second), and some 1.8 million children die each year due to diarrhoea alone.

The lack of empathy by all developed nations towards these victims is similar to watching a major earthquake that flattens thousands of homes and schools and not doing anything to help the survivors. Today 300,000 children die every day which is nothing less than a major earthquake happening every day. For perspective, nearly 80,000 died in the massive 2005 Kashmir earthquake.

Who is responsible for this predicament, the poor people, their governments or global policies of advanced nations? It is hard to blame people who are hand to mouth, illiterate and barely surviving. Responsibility lies squarely with the rich and powerful of today’s world, the economic giants that include rich countries as well as global players such as large multinational corporations and institutions.

What is shocking is that the cost of fixing this issue is miniscule, compared to the funds available with the players mentioned above. As per a study by a global think tank we need $7 billion to fix education, $9 billion for providing water and sanitation and another $13 billion to provide basic health and nutrition to the stricken population. In comparison US spent $14.1 billion per month from 2007 to 2011 on the Iraq and Afghan wars.

If one ponders over the numbers above, fixing the world’s “poverty” issue is no rocket science. What we are missing is their desire and their resolve to solve this problem. However there are a few encouraging examples, such as of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet who have put aside $33.5 billion behind the belief that every life has equal value.  A local example is of Aman Foundation led by Arif Naqvi who has set aside $100 million as seed money to achieve their mission of enhancing health, education and capacity building within Pakistan.  We need more such examples to give every citizen a chance to have a better life and eventually bring everlasting peace and prosperity to this violent and unruly world.

The writer works in the corporate sector and is active on various business forums and trade bodies.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Ali Tanoli
    May 21, 2012 - 2:35AM

    world need more A-Bombs and more wars and more stupid third world countries leaders who buys these mass destruction stuff from civilized world …… i dont know what to say india pakistan buys more weapons every years but minor problem of kashmir dont wanna solve it

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  • Falcon
    May 21, 2012 - 10:18AM

    Saad-
    First of all, both of you articles are brilliant. It would be a great if you could also enlighten us with the following information in subsequent pieces if possible: Firstly, list out systemic causes of this poverty. For example, how much global surge in capitalism has reduced or contributed to this poverty? Secondly, please provide more details of the references you have provided above for the amounts that will fix education, healthcare, water, and sanitation globally. Thirdly, what are your thoughts on private-public cooperation in social sector to build out business case for these initiatives.

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  • Saad Amanullah Khan
    May 21, 2012 - 12:11PM

    @Falcon:
    Thank you for your comments and I will in my future article address the impact of capitalism and other factors on poverty. The source I used for fixing various key demographic issues like health, education and sanitation was taken from the following website: http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats. Go down to the middle of the article and you will see a lot of interesting data. Private-public partnership are the way for the future on social development … will shed more light on this in the future as well.

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  • saurabh
    May 21, 2012 - 6:14PM

    Saad
    I do not agree with your assignment of blame. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are private individuals who may do what they like with their money. However governments and corporations are responsible only to their citizens or shareholders who may not be well off. In any case I don’t understand how governments of 3rd world countries are left blameless as it is their responsibility to create opportunities fo their own citizens. Asking developed countries to provide handouts indicates an unearned entitlement complex among us developing world citizens. Developed countries have provided aid several times but that has created more problems than solving them.

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