The widening gap between rich and poor is hastening the transition to a multipolar world
by Veniamin Popov on 16 Sep 2022 0 Comment

According to the charity Oxfam, which fights against poverty throughout the world, the ten wealthiest people in the world have seen their combined assets double in the last two years, from $700 billion to $1.5 trillion. In its briefing on inequality, Oxfam points out that “central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom.”


Another document, the World Inequality Report 2022, published by the World Inequality Lab at the Paris School of Economics, draws attention to the ever-widening gap, with 10% of the world’s population owning 76% of global wealth. 2022 has seen a huge number of dramatic events, and will go down in history as an important milestone on the path to the creation of a new world order.


The leaders of the Western nations, trying with all their strength to hold onto their dominant position, have made a number of historic mistakes which have had the effect of exacerbating global divisions and seriously inflaming relations between states. These new tensions raise the risk of a global nuclear war and threaten many regions with famine.


According to the head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the countries and regions facing a risk of famine include Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Yemen and North-East Nigeria. Famine is defined as a situation in which at least 20% of households in a given region have limited access to basic foods, 30% of children suffer from severe malnutrition and two people out of every 10,000 die each day from outright starvation or the interaction of malnutrition and disease.


Beyond any doubt, climate factors, especially drought, have contributed to the current situation. Nevertheless, an equally important role is played by leaders of Western nations, who place their own selfish interests above those of their populations and try to cling onto power at any cost. A good example is provided by the current leaders of certain countries in Western Europe.


The French newspaper Le Monde has suggested that the continent as a whole is moving towards a recession, with the euro at lowest value against the US dollar in 20 years. In the upcoming Italian general elections, due to be held at the end of September, a coalition of right-wing parties is expected to win. These parties are not in favour of continuing to impose sanctions on Russia. The above tendency is particularly evident in the actions of the German and British governments, which have shot themselves in the foot.


The Germans have refused to certify the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, built especially to supply them with gas, and thus causing problems for their own population. However, it is perhaps Britain’s Conservative Party that has done most to reduce the living standards enjoyed by its own people. As one American editorial puts it, “the Conservatives made everything in Britain worse (yes, even the weather).”


2022 has been a year of worsening crises in all areas: inflation has risen to double figures and is still growing, the rail network, postal service and refuse collection services have all suffered from national strikes, an intense heatwave has caused the most serious drought for 20 years and a combination of Brexit and the pandemic has spoiled many families’ first holiday in 3 years.


The British people, caught up in this perfect storm of crises, feel abandoned by their government. And few are optimistic about their new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. As the New York Times put it in an article published on September 6, although the British Empire ended 60 years ago, she is still “in thrall to its legacy.”


In Britain she is seen as following in the footsteps of Enoch Powell, who is best remembered as a racist and xenophobe: she has adopted a hard line on immigration, promising to increase the Border Force by 20% and supports the controversial plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda. In 2012 Liz Truss made a name for herself in political circles as one of the five co-authors of Britannia Unchained: Global Lessons for Growth and Prosperity, which argued that Britain’s loss of status in the world was the result of the excessive growth of the welfare state, which had raised a generation of snowflakes, described as “among the worst idlers in the world.” And recently she claimed that British workers “lack skill and application.”


She sees cutting taxes – which would, in all likelihood mostly favour big, profitable businesses – as a panacea for all economic woes, and favours a small state, wage cuts, a reduction in red tape and the liberation of the market. As the New York Times put it in its article cited above, “under Ms. Truss, the broken mentality of empire rules,” and in the end it is ordinary British people who will suffer as a result.


Britain now stands on the threshold of a serious crisis. In addition to the economic problems, Scotland plans to hold a referendum on independence, relations with the EU are tense, and many British people are angry that the new Prime Minister has been chosen not by the whole population of some 67 million, but by the 161,000 members of Conservative Party.


All these problems have combined to exacerbate racism in Europe, as Al Jazeera pointed out in an article published on August 10, with the headline “Is Europe just as racist as America?”. The West’s policies have led to increases in food prices, creating huge problems for many poorer countries. Faced with the self-seeking actions of Western powers, many leaders in the developing world have refused to support the Russophobic measures imposed by the US and Western Europe.


At the beginning of September, a number of African leaders criticized the Western nations for their failure to provide the promised support to help poorer countries adapt to climate change. The President of Senegal emphasized that the fate, not just of Africa, but of humanity as a whole was at stake, while the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo echoed his sentiments in equally forceful terms.


The double standards and hypocrisy displayed by western politicians have provoked negative reactions in developing countries. The Scandinavian countries, for example, present themselves as paragons of fairness and social equality. But recently a prestigious Danish school found itself at the centre of a scandal when the Crown Prince was forced to withdraw his son following multiple accusations of sexual violence and bullying at the school.


The moral principles espoused by certain Western leaders continue to raise questions. As an Israeli journalist put it, in the past leaders had their hobbies but “no national leader was caught rocking in a nightclub or drinking, shouting and kneeling while wrapped in a dance party’s blinking lights. No leader, that is, except Finland’s Sanna Marin…” The ruling classes in the West are distancing themselves from the general population, and the gap is widening all the time. It seems clear that for Western nations this autumn and winter will be a time of multiple disasters, protests and demonstrations.


The world is becoming more and more divided, and many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America are calling for a more equal and fairer world order, and choosing to support Russia and China.


Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center for Partnership of Civilizations at MGIMO (Moscow State Institute of International Relations) of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Candidate of Historical Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. Courtesy

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