Massive wealth and struggling refugees

By Paul Sullivan

Georgetown University

A recent report by the British Organization Oxfam points out that the wealth of the world is increasingly being held by the richest of the rich. The top one percent now own about 48 percent of the wealth in the world. Before the Great Recession in 2007 to 2010, the bottom 99 percent owned about 60 percent of the wealth of the world.

Now they own around 52 percent. Of that 52 percent of the wealth of the bottom 99 percent, about 94.5 percent of that is owned by the top 20 percent. This leaves a paltry 5.5 percent of the world’s wealth being held by the bottom 80 percent of the population. The richest 80 people own over 1.3 trillion USD in wealth. That is 80 people. And that is 1.3 trillion. So the average wealth of these really rich people is about 16.25 billion USD. There are about 7.2 billion people in the world. Now that is a lot of people. If these wealthiest people had a twinge of charity one day and decided to give every person in the world about 90 USD, they would still have half of their wealth, or about 650 billion USD. Divide that 650 billion USD by 80 people, that would still have each of these top 80 persons holding an average of 8.125 billion USD. That is not exactly poverty level. Now, let’s say each of them gave 2.5 or even 5 percent towards some of the solutions to world problems. That would be 3.25 to 6.50 billion dollars. That could go a long way to cleaning up the dirty water in Africa that kills 5,000 children under five in a day. This could go a long way in improving sanitation in many parts of Africa and South Asia. It could go a long way towards training teachers, doctors, dentists and others for the parts of the world that need these skills the most. It could go a long way toward feeding refugees who have had to flee their homes due to war and other conflicts and threats.

There are about 14 million refugees being taken care of by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. There may be many more refugees in the world. Some reliable sources say as much as 33 million people are internally displaced. There are five million Palestinian refugees under the UNRWA. However, the largest numbers of refugees under the UNHCR mandates are by far are from Syria, then Afghanistan, then Somalia, and then Sudan. These countries’ refuges add up to about seven million people. When it is all added up, there could be well over 50 million people suffering as refugees in the world. Lebanon has the most refugees per person. Second comes Jordan.

These two countries have a massive burden to carry. Turkey has a much larger population than these two, but also feels the great burden of refugees. The countries that are feeling the greatest economic stress from refugees are Ethiopia, Pakistan, Chad, Uganda, and Kenya, given that these are poor countries that have a lot of refugees in them. The worst off of the refugees and the displaced are those who find no support from the U.N. or just about anyone else. These could be in the millions, and they have really fallen through the cracks. So, let’s see. There are some interesting tradeoffs here. Shall the top 80 buy another 130 foot yacht, or help thousands of refugees? Should they buy a fifth vacation home, or help drill some clean water wells in Africa? Shall they buy more diamonds and gold for their lady friends, or feed starving infants in the mountains of Lebanon or the scorching sands of the Sudan? Shall they buy another fleet of sports cars, or buy a fleet of school buses for the children of Africa who now need to run barefoot to school each morning? Shall they fund movies with no social benefit, or fund libraries for the poor children in many parts of the world? Shall they spend billions on lobbying or on campaign donations, or shall they spend billions educating their people on their rights and their responsibilities to give them reasons for hope? With great wealth comes great responsibility. We know there is great wealth. Some of these persons are charitable in many ways. However, clearly, given the way the world is today, they need to do so much more. And they can still be quite wealthy.

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Posted by on Mar 1 2015. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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