Economic inequality has always prevailed in human society in one form or the other. However, since the process of globalisation set in motion in the recent past, the balance has been tilting more and more in favour of the rich, resulting in an ever-widening gulf between the haves and have-nots. Now the number of poor worldwide has increased to unheard of levels, making it increasingly difficult for those at lower rungs of income to access even essential for survival.
At present, 1% of the world’s population owns 40% of its economic resources. The increasing economic inequality is, however, more pronounced in Third World countries than ever before. The UNDP’s latest National Human Development Report places Pakistan’s powerful elite in an uncomfortable moral dilemma as it says this class has cornered economic privileges amounting to $17.4 billion or 6% of GDP. The beneficiaries of the lop-sided distribution of the national wealth are the corporate sector, feudal lords, politicians and other influential classes.
The report says stark disparities concerning income and economic opportunities exist between the mentioned powerful elites and people belonging to other classes. It highlights that policies often result in exacerbating inequalities instead of reducing them. The elite use their power, mostly furtively, to obtain the lion’s share in the national income, leaving little for the less influential and only crumbs for the have-nots.
According to the report released last week, the corporate sector is the biggest beneficiary of the unequal system. They get inputs cheap and sell their output at higher prices, and enjoy preferential treatment in access to land, capital and services. They acquire around $4.7 billion in benefits. Next on the list of beneficiaries are feudal lords. They are a mere 1.1% of the total population but they own 22% of all agricultural lands.
The UNDP regional chief has discussed issues related to increasing economic inequality in Pakistan with the PM and his cabinet colleagues. They agreed on the causes, analysis and conclusions arrived at in the report, and pledged to take corrective steps as recommended in the report.