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.