rich & poor

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 24 Jan 2018 10:20:03

THE traditional divide between the rich and the poor will never get off the backs of thinkers of economics. So candid is the difference between the two segments that every indicator used to measure economic parameters of any society has to touch both the segments as a matter of compulsion. And therefore, even as the World Economic Forum (WEF) met at Davos, Oxfam released an India survey that showed only 1% richest people holding 73% of the national wealth. Another critical point of the finding was that 67% of the Indians forming the poorest half of the population saw an increase of just 1% in its income. The survey, thus, endeavoured to show how unequal is the distribution of wealth in India. In other words, the survey almost aims at debunking some other surveys that India is slated to be the world’s fastest growing economy. Looking at the overall economic process in a rapidly changing world tilting heavily towards capitalist mode, such findings do not carry any importance greater than propaganda in the old socialist category. 

Considering the overall economic picture of India, even a rise of 1% in the income of the poorest half of the population should be taken as a good sign, though not totally satisfactory. All over the world, this has always been the picture. The rise in income of poor population is often on a low key while the richest segments of the society keep amassing wealth. This happens not because there is an ill will between the two segments, but because the overall flow of income in any modern economy is always gravitating to the rich segment. This is because the rich segments controls almost all sources of generation of surplus. It owns industry. It controls agriculture. It controls political power. And it also is a major participant in global trade.

In such a situation, to dish out statistical differences between the rich and the poor segments of any society is nothing more than playing the emotional quotient without much reason and sense. For, the one complex question which needs to be asked here is as follows: Is it possible for anybody in the world to alter the direction of the economic flow? Is it possible for anybody in the world to ask the rich to give up everything they have earned out of their mostly legitimate effort? Will it make sense if we suddenly make this massive alteration and hand over to the poor segments of the society our entire economic activity?

Everybody knows the answers to all these questions. That is why even in the capitalist economy, the effort is to make as even a distribution of income as possible among the have-nots. This aim is considered due and legitimate in every sense. When the world thinkers talk of inclusive economy, they make efforts to design economic measures that would start creating opportunities of earning by the poorer sections.

The idea is simple -- the rich became rich because they had the right opportunities. If opportunities are available for others, the possibilities of raising overall income levels for the poorer sections also increase. Modern economic thought has been woven around this, much contrary to the socialist thought of robbing Paul to pay Peter. Unfortunately, the tone of the Oxfam survey seems to suggest an unnecessary socialist tilt.

In the past some years, like any sane nation, India has tried to rise above the rob-Paul-to-pay-Peter syndrome. Many facets of modern economy may still not suit the actual Indian conditions. Yet, the very effort to create an inclusive economic and social architecture has its own merits. The good effects of this effort of the past quarter of a century are becoming visible now. As the WEF talks of ‘Shared future’, with its current economic model, India can be an equal partner with global powers.