OXFAM had released a damning report: Public Good or Private Wealth ahead of the World Economic Forum summit held in Davos this year in January. The report portrays ‘disparity in wealth, caste and creed’ worldwide, particularly India.

India’s Mukesh Ambani is the 19th richest person (Forbes 2018 billionaire list) who lives in a towering 570-foot building worth $1billion. Recently he spent money on the marriage of his daughter Isha Ambani. She wore a gold gown (lehenga) worth Rs900 million. Over 200 chartered planes were contracted to ferry guests. On the other hand another alarming statistic: because of caste inequality in India, a lower-caste woman lives 15 years less than a high-caste woman.

The regressive tax system has widened the rich-poor gap worldwide by under-taxing corporations and the wealthy. Public services were under-funded.

According to the report, adding half a per cent to taxes on the wealth of the world’s richest one per cent would raise more than enough money to educate 262 million children. It could even provide healthcare that would save 3.3 million lives. However, taxes on the rich, the report said, were being reduced or eliminated in wealthy nations and barely implemented at all in the developing world. Tax rates for corporations in rich countries fell from 62pc in 1970 to 38pc in 2013, with the average rate in poor nations currently at 28 pc.

The report is an eye-opener. The rich became richer by about 12pc last year at $2.5 billion a day; the poor 3.8 billion people globally became poorer by 11pc. Now 26 rich people own as much wealth as half of the poor around the globe.

The Oxfam report highlights are relevant to Pakistan also.

Nikhat Shaheen

Islamabad

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2019