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WORLD POVERTY IS NOT RECEDING, OXFAM REPORT

Dennis Katungi

The report in The Times of London on 19th January that the richest one percent of the world own more than the rest combined together was a bit disconcerting.
I had just read the story of the clever but poor Ugandan boy  Samuel Otobi and his poor father Epiru.  Otobi was the only pupil that passed in Grade One in the whole of Gweri Sub county somewhere up there in Teso. But his Dad was contemplating to make him repeat P7 or withdrawing one of his elder brothers from School so Otobi could join Senior One! What a pain!

This week, Billionaires and politicians will gather in Davos, Switzerland at the annual World Economic Forum to play their part in tackling extreme inequality, but alas, the gap between the haves and have not’s keep widening.
If this trend continues, the top 1% will have more wealth than the remaining 99% of the World’s total population.  Says Oxfam.

Our own Winnie Byanyima, the Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the 1 percent own more than the rest of us combined?”  My answer is that we may not want, but it most certainly is likely to happen.

The average wealth of members of the global elite last year was £1.78 million pound sterling (Ugshs…. ?) and their share of world wide wealth was 48%, according to Oxfam.  Almost all the remaining 52% is owned by people within the richest 20 percent.
The report adds that a third of the rich people listed by Forbes magazine are US citizens.
Thanks to the world wide web, one is now able to keep tab of matters closer to home, so, in London, I was following  Sarah Kagingo and Linda Nabusayiwho these days give ‘News as it breaks’ via Social Media and email bulletins.

 I read President Museveni’s comments to the people of Kanungu.  They raised issues over intermittent power shortages and the President told them that Uganda’s existing power lines are old and cannot adequately handle the new energy output that currently stands at 850 MW up from 60 MW in 1986.  In his own words, he said: “We found a dead economy and started from zero.  As we handle one challenge, another one comes up.  We solved the energy issue and now we have to replace transmission lines countrywide.”  

Our President, if you follow him as intently as I do, is very much in the mould of a School Teacher, educating the Ugandan masses on poverty alleviation, land fragmentation, wealth creation, hygiene, HIV Aids and many other topics.  If this is the population we have in 2015, needing to be taught in this way, don’t you sometimes wonder as I do, what our people were like when the colonialists came here?

Imagine leaders even now have to tell the masses, grow enough food to eat but also to sell, dig a pit latrine, please wash your hands and if you have a Kibanja, be careful not to chop it up and distribute plots to you children as that makes the land unviable as an entity for production.  Any wonder in the reader’s mind why the rich nations and peoples get richer, and the poor nations get poorer?Populations in the rich world need no body telling them how to go about their lives or how to make money! They know better. Ours even need to be told it is important to take children for immunisation! How many teacher Presidents of the Museveni mould will Uganda and Africa need before future generations get anywhere closer to closing this yawning poverty gap?
In an interview with the Guardian, Winnie Byanyima said: “We want to bring a message from the people in the poorest countries in the world to the forum of the most powerful business and political leaders. Rising inequality is dangerous.  It’s bad for growth and its bad for governance.  We see a concentration of wealth capturing power and leaving ordinary people voiceless and their interests uncared for”  Hard capitalism would ask, is that our business?

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with a similar study which showed that 85 of the richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). This year’s report is even more stark, 80 people now own the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion the gap being much worse than in 2010.

dpkats299@gmail.com