From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Pandemic and inequality
The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened economic inequalities across the world says the Inequality Kills Report.
Try substantiating this:
Q. Extreme inequality is a form of ‘economic violence’—where structural and systemic policy and political choices are skewed in favor of the richest and the most powerful people. Critically examine.
What is the “Inequality Kills” Report?
- “Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19” is a report released in January 2022 by Oxfam, a U.K.-based consortium.
- The report argues for sustained and immediate action to end the pandemic, address global inequality and initiate concerted measures to tackle the climate emergency.
- The central argument of the report is that inequality is a death sentence for people that are marginalized by social and economic structures and removed from political decision-making.
- Billionaire variants: Identifying this process as “the billionaire variant”, the report says that this vertical aggregation of global wealth into the hands of a few is “profoundly dangerous for our world”.
- Pauperization: 160 million people were rendered poor during the pandemic, while the ten richest people doubled their fortunes since the start of the pandemic.
- Vaccine apartheid: Holding governments to account the report identifies “vaccine apartheid” (unequal access to vaccines between countries) and the lack of universal vaccination programs in many countries.
- Inflation: It also demonstrates how emergency government expenditure (estimated at $16 trillion) that was meant to keep economies afloat during this crisis, inflated stock prices.
- Collective: This resulted in billionaires’ collective wealth increasing by $5 trillion during the pandemic.
Why does the report say that inequality kills?
- For the writers of the report inequality is not an abstract theory.
- Instead, they see it as institutionalized violence against poorer people.
- Extreme inequality is a form of ‘economic violence’—where structural and systemic policy and political choices that are skewed in favor of the richest and the most powerful people.
- This results in direct harm to the vast majority of ordinary people worldwide.
Implications of inequality
- Crime and violence: The report identifies higher inequality with more crime and violence and less social trust.
- Impact on marginalized: The brunt of inequality and the violence is borne, for instance, by women across the world, Dalits in India, Black, Native American and Latin persons in the US and indigenous groups in many countries.
- Victimization of women: Pointing to the example of women, the problem runs a lot deeper as 13 million women have not returned to the workforce and 20 million girls are at risk of losing access to education.
The “Inequality Kills” report proposes far-reaching changes to structures of government, economy and policy-making to fight inequality.
- Vaccine sharing: It urgently asks for “vaccine recipes” to be made open-source so that every qualified vaccine manufacturer can manufacture them.
- Taxing the opportunists: The report then asks for governments to claw back the wealth from billionaires by administering solidarity taxes higher than 90% especially on the billionaires that have profited during pandemic.
- Taxation reforms: The report asks for permanent cancellation of tax havens, progressive taxation on corporations and an end to tax dodging by corporations.
- Welfare: The report then suggests that this regained wealth be redirected towards building income safety nets, universalizing healthcare for everyone, investing in green technologies and democratizing them, and, investing in protecting women from violence.