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Fifty-Percent Held by One-Percent: a Rising Inequality to Instability

The trend that places 50-percent of the globe's wealth in the hands of  one-percent of the world's population richest people by 2016, is a global catastrophic formula that could spread instability and strife not witnessed in our modern era. And this wealth held by the very few has increased from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014, underscores the fact that such rapid concentration of wealth among so few seen since the recession of 2008-09, is dangerous and needs to be reversed.

These are the facts, the trends and the warnings issued yesterday in a research report by poverty charity, Oxfam International, and delivered before the World Economic Forum(WEF), at Davos, Switzerland. The Forum of the world's economic powers and billionaires is meeting to decide policy issues for the next year.

Oxfam's Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, one of the six co-chairs at the WEF summit, told the Guardian Newspaper in an interview, that the charity wanted "to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders...that rising inequality is dangerous. It's bad for growth and it's bad for governance."

She added: "We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for."

Oxfam's published study revealed the wealth held by one percent of the world's population had risen to 48-percent in 2014 from 44-percent in 2009. And that 80-percent of the least-well-off accounted for just 5.5 percent of global wealth. The Oxfam study also found that on current trends, the richest one-percent will own more than 50-percent of the world's wealth by 2016.

In the interview with the Guardian, the Oxfam Executive Director also pointed out that a mere 80 people now own the same amount of wealth of more than 3.5 billion people down from 388 in 2010. To this end, she questioned and observed: "Do we really want to live in a world where one-percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and rest is widening fast."

Pope Francis and International Monetary Fund(IMF) head, Christine Lagarde, have also joined a growing list of those warning that rising inequality could damage the world's economy if left unchecked.

But Oxfam's Winnie Byanyima is optimistic  that there will be change. "Extreme inequality is not just an accident or a natural rule of economics. It's the result of policies and with different policies, it can be reduced."

Henceforth, Oxfam has proposed a 7-point plan to tackle inequality:

  • act upon tax evasion by corporations and individuals
  • invest in universal free public services such as health and education
  • share the tax burden fairly - shifting taxation from labor and consumption to capital and wealth
  • introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  • introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  • ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest including a minimum income guarantee, and;
  • agree upon a global plan to tackle inequality.

So, when United States(US) President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address later tonight here in Washington, D.C., and he emphasizes the need to grow the middle class through tax credits and breaks, along with a need for the rich to pay a fair portion of taxes, it must be to alleviate and to hedge against rising inequality that the spirit of the President's remarks be taken.