Sunday, 20 June 2010

UN Says World's richest 1% own 40% of all wealth

In the USA last year "The richest 1 percent have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined." Michael Moore on Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 in a news conference in Washington, D.C

The richest 1% of adults in the world own 40% of the planet's wealth, according to the largest study yet of wealth distribution. The report also finds that those in financial services and the internet sectors predominate among the super rich.

Richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth according to a study released today by the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-WIDER). The Bottom 50% Own 1%. Wealth is heavily concentrated in North America, Europe, and high income Asia-Pacific countries. People in these countries collectively hold almost 90% of total world wealth.

Europe, the US and some Asia Pacific nations account for most of the extremely wealthy. More than a third live in the US. Japan accounts for 27% of the total, the UK for 6% and France for 5%.

The report found the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total of global assets. Half the world's adult population, however, owned barely 1% of global wealth. Near the bottom of the list were India, with per capita wealth of $1,100, and Indonesia with assets per head of $1,400.

"These levels of inequality are grotesque," said Duncan Green, head of research at Oxfam. "It is impossible to justify such vast wealth when 800 million people go to bed hungry every night. The good news is that redistribution would only have to be relatively small. Such are the vast assets of the rich that giving up a small part of their wealth could transform the lives of millions."

Madsen Pirie, director of the Adam Smith Institute, a free-market thinktank, disagreed that distribution of global wealth was unfair. He said: "The implicit assumption behind this is that there is a supply of wealth in the world and some people have too much of that supply. In fact wealth is a dynamic, it is constantly created. We should not be asking who in the past has created wealth and how can we get it off them." He said that instead the question should be how more and more people could create wealth.

Ruth Lea, director of the Centre for Policy Studies, a thinkthank set up by Margaret Thatcher, said that although she supported the goal of making poverty history she did not think increasing aid to poorer countries was the answer. "It's no use throwing lots of aid at countries that are basically dysfunctional," she said.

During the Age of Reason, Francis Bacon wrote "Above all things good policy is to be used that the treasures and monies in a state be not gathered into a few hands... Money is like muck, not good except it be spread."

I fear this is what Cameron means by the 'Big Society'; cut aid and leave the poor to charity. Sounds a bit Victorian, return to the poorhouse.

See 'The Spirit Level' (Why Equality is Better for Everyone) by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett. The Greater London Assembly recently passed a motion proposed by Assembly Member Darren Johnson, to limit pay ratios within the GLA and associated bodies to 1:20 - with a long term goal of reducing them to 1:10. See a short film here.

This is budget week in the UK, expect cuts to services. The Chancellor has confirmed that he will announce his Budget statement on Tuesday 22 June at 12.30pm

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