Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi speaks on ending extreme poverty at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival in New York City. (Credit: Debby Wong/Bigstock)
Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi speaks on ending extreme poverty at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival in New York City. (Credit: Debby Wong/Bigstock) (via: bit.ly)

Over the last three decades, pro-growth neoliberal policies have been followed by many developing countries as part of structural adjustment programmes, at the behest of the IMF and the World Bank.

Faster growth has been achieved by emerging market economies like India but accompanied by an unprecedented rise in income and wealth inequality. In China and India, higher GDP growth has indeed led to a decrease in extreme poverty, but it has also led to huge gaps in income and wealth between the rich and the poor.

Globally, while absolute poverty has come down, inequality has risen, especially with the stagnating incomes of the middle classes in affluent countries. Growing inequality threatens the long-term social and economic development of countries experiencing high GDP growth. It destroys people’s self-worth and confidence, breeds crime, leads to various types of ill health and can lead to terrorist activities and environmental degradation. In an interconnected world, the rise of inequality affects everyone, no matter who we are or where we come from.

Furthermore, since the global financial crisis of 2008, a class of ‘super-rich’ has emerged across the world, with ownership of a vast amount of assets and wealth. They seem to be the biggest beneficiaries of the existing world order. A recent Oxfam report shockingly revealed that eight individuals own more wealth than the rest of the world combined (Oxfam, 2017).

Inequality today cannot be addressed at the global level alone and has to be tackled at the national level as well. Policies for the reduction of inequality should preoccupy rich and poor countries alike. This has often been discussed at the annual World Economic Forum meetings in recent years. ‘Reduction of Inequalities’ is the tenth UN Sustainable Development Goal. In general, reduction of inequality will require strong and targeted actions at the national level and a broad action plan at the global level.

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Jayshree Sengupta

Senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi,

Jayshree Sengupta holds an MPhil in Economics from the London School of Economics (LSE).Jayshree has worked as a research associate or consultant in a range of prestigious organizations worldwide, including the following: the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (London), the Indian Council of Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER, New Delhi), the Institute of Manpower Research (IMR, New Delhi), and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER, New Delhi), the World Bank (Washington D.C.), the OECD (Paris), and the World Economic Forum (Geneva). Jayshree has also enjoyed a significant career in journalism. She was a senior editor with the Hindustan Times, and has written articles and columns on economics and art for nearly all of India’s major national dailies, including The Times of India and Sunday magazine. She has also had a teaching career, as a lecturer in economics at Delhi University (Miranda House and Indraprastha College) for ten years.Jayshree is currently a senior fellow with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), New Delhi, and is a regular contributor to The Tribune and Pioneer newspapers. She is also the Chairperson of the Centre for Development and Human Rights (CDHR), a non-profit organization founded by her late husband, Dr. Arjun Sengupta. http://www.jayshreesengupta.org/