Victory of the People by Muhammad Yunus
Oxfam Updates on Wealth Concentration
Oxfam has been giving us horrifying updates on wealth concentration each year. This year they tell us that 62 richest people own more wealth than owned by bottom half of world population. In 2015 they reported that the 80 richest people, and in 2014, according to them 85 richest people owned more wealth than owned by the bottom half of world population. In 2010, six years back, it was 388 richest people who had the pleasure of owning similar wealth. They also told us that wealth of 80 richest people doubled in five years, between 2009 and 2014.
Oxfam has a terrifying projection for 2016. During the current year, they projected, the richest 1% of the world will own 99% of the world's wealth. That means 99% of the people will be left with only 1% of the wealth.
This information is so unbelievable that it takes time to absorb. We feel like asking many more questions. How many of world's richest people will own more wealth than owned by the bottom half of the world population, say, in 2025? It is obvious that if the number can drop from 388 persons to 62 persons in six years we are just one small step away from one lucky person owning more wealth than owned by bottom half of the world population!
US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders keeps reminding in his campaign speeches that in the USA, the top 0.1% owns 90% of the nation's wealth.
What about Bangladesh? Is it 62, or more, or less, of the richest owning more wealth than owned by the bottom half of the country's population? Does it interest anyone to find the number? How long will it take to reach a point where only one person will own more wealth than owned by bottom half of the people of Bangladesh? Obviously he will be the 'King'. His wishes will be the law of the land. Does it sound too far-fetched?
Concentration of wealth also means concentration of power -- political and social, privileges, and opportunities. The reverse is also true. If you don't have any wealth, you have no power, no privileges, no opportunities. The bottom fifty percent of the people of the world who own only a tiny fraction of 1% of the global wealth, belong to this category. Tomorrow it will be worse.
Concentration is an ongoing non-stop process under the present economic system. That's the point I am drawing your attention to the richest people are not necessarily bad people, as popularly imagined, engineering the ever-expanding concentration of wealth with bad intentions. It is the system which does it for them. Wealth is like a magnet. The bigger the magnet the greater is its pulling force. It draws smaller magnets towards it. That's how the economic system is built. People with no magnet find it difficult to attract anything to them. If they somehow own some tiny magnets, retaining them becomes difficult for them. Bigger ones pull them to themselves. Unidirectional forces of concentration of wealth keep changing the shape of wealth-pyramid making its base thinner and its peak narrower and higher, ultimately looking like a thinning column rising out of a thin but large base.
(Delivered at the 25th Anniversary event of the Daily Star on February 5, 2016 in Dhaka.)
For full speech: http://www.muhammadyunus.org/index.php/news-media/speeches/1522-can-wealth-concentration-be-stopped-speech