[Skip to Content]

30 January 2014

Calls for equality on global wealth

Calls for equality on global wealth

Calls by Pope Francis and Oxfam for just dealings with global wealth were made last week as delegates gathered for the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2014 in Davos, Switzerland.

The Pope's message called for a greater "growth of equality" in the midst of economic recovery. He called on world business leaders to put money to good use in the service of humanity and to oversee the "better distribution of wealth".

"I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it," he said.

While he acknowledged that building business had helped lift millions of people out of poverty, he said capitalism had led to widespread social exclusion.

"The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it. It demands first of all 'a transcendent vision of the person'," said the Pontiff.

"It also calls for decisions, mechanisms and processes directed to a better distribution of wealth, the creation of sources of employment and an integral promotion of the poor which goes beyond a simple welfare mentality."

His call came at the same time Oxfam released their report Working For The Few, which argues that growing inequality is the result of a "power grab" by economic elites who have engaged politics to shape economic rules to suit themselves.

The report reveals the extreme inequality in global wealth distribution. Oxfam executive director Winnie Byanyima who attended the WEF said: "It is staggering that in the 21st Century, half of the world's population – that's three and a half billion people – own no more than a tiny elite whose numbers could all fit comfortably on a double-decker bus." This means that half the world's wealth is owned by one percent of the population.

The report, released on the eve of the WEF also argues that the fight against poverty cannot be won while wealth inequality persists. "Widening inequality is creating a vicious circle where wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, leaving the rest of us to fight over crumbs from the top table," Byanyima added.

Oxfam called on delegates to refrain from tax evasion and buying their way to political favours and urged them to undertake practices which would result in the common good, such as challenging governments to use tax revenue to provide essential public services.

Byanyima writes in her blog: "It's widely acknowledged that extreme concentrations of wealth are not just morally questionable but they stunt long-term economic growth too, making it more difficult to reduce poverty. What must now be admitted is that extreme income inequality is dangerous because it also threatens to undermine democratic governance".