World Economic Forum inequality warning a wake-up call for leaders in lead-up to G20: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 07 Nov 2014

The World Economic Forum’s warning on inequality is a wake-up call to G20 leaders that they must put the issue squarely on the G20 agenda next weekend in Brisbane.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the World Economic Forum’s report just released, Outlook on the Global Agenda, places ‘deepening income inequality’ at the very top of its list of concerns for world leaders in 2015..

“Inequality has been in the top few concerns for the World Economic Forum (WEF) for the past two years – but this year for the first time it is number one”, Dr Szoke said.

“These findings are the latest wake-up call for world leaders to get to grips with the explosion in extreme inequality, which has resulted in 85 people owning as much as the poorest 3.5 billion people on the planet.

“The growing body of evidence that inequality is a threat both to prosperity and the fight against poverty demands that governments do more than merely wring their hands – they need to face down vested interests and take concrete steps to close the widening gap between rich and poor.

“Extreme inequality is not inevitable; there are a range of policy choices available, including ensuring companies and rich individuals pay their fair share in tax and investing the proceeds in health and education.”

She said given this week’s revelations on tax avoidance by Australian multinationals through secret tax deals with Luxembourg outlined the urgency of  global tax reform, on the agenda of the G20 and a critical way in which inequality could be addressed.

“The leaks underline the scale of the problem of tax dodging,” Dr Szoke said.  “It’s not just one isolated scandal; we’re talking about a whole industry making profits disappear, which hurts Australia and developing countries alike.”

She said the tax negotiations under way needed to be broadened to include developing countries in the decision-making, so that they could truly benefit from tax reform and get a fair share of taxes.

The WEF’s findings will add to growing global pressure for action to tackle extreme inequality and comes just before the G20 meeting that has boosting economic growth as a key focus.

“Economic growth is a good ambition, but recent evidence shows that the extremes of inequality we’re seeing today are actually bad for growth, and reduces its poverty-reducing impact,” Dr Szoke said.

“For example, in Zambia, GDP per capita growth averaged three per cent every year between 2004 and 2013, pushing it into lower-middle income status.  “Yet the number of people living below the $1.25 poverty line grew from 65 percent in 2003 to 74 percent in Zambia in 2010.”

She said more than half of the world’s poor, those living on under $1.25 per day, live within G20 nations:  “If the Brisbane Action Plan is to mean anything to them, the growth strategies G20 nations produce next weekend must be inclusive. It is time for the inequality to be put squarely on the G20 agenda.”

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