Lucky One of the way, they tell us, we

Lucky you!              

I had a long day at work. I go back home turn on the TV
and they talk. They talk about war, unemployment, naxalism, corruption and
poverty. Such a sad world! 

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I don’t have to carry the weight of the world on my
shoulders. I possibly don’t have time to think about 1 billion people who might
have to sleep hungry tonight. I deserve a hot delicious meal after a tiring day
like this. We have created institutions and governments who promise to fight
the battle on our behalf.

One such institution which I adored was World Bank.  They define “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.90
per person per day. Don’t worry, they are equipped to
fight this battle. This is their millennium
development goals.  One of the way, they tell us, we have to open up our
markets believe in free enterprise and welcome capitalism. They say capitalism
is the cure, it pulled millions of people out of the poverty. Since the very
introduction of economics in my life, I have been told how capitalism is the
one stop solution to poverty, it is a fact. You don’t think about facts, just
believe in them.  So if you want some
capital, you just have to open your door to free enterprise and then World Bank
gives you aid to develop your country.  Just the way World Bank helped
Bolivia!

In 1998 the IMF made privatization a requirement for
Bolivia to receive loans to control inflation and help the economy, making
privatization not just a suggestion but a requirement if Bolivia wished to
receive any aid. The Western powers were effectively forcing Bolivia to oblige
by the wishes of large multinational corporations. These corporations had a
great deal of money, influence, and power, so they theoretically had the funds
to invest. These companies had the monetary power and ability to assist
countries like Bolivia.

In 1999 the Bolivian government signed a forty-year
contract to transfer the operation and distribution of Bolivia’s water supply
from the municipal drinking water and sewer services to a multinational
company.  Just at the moment capitalism was in action. Water became a
commodity. Prices rose. Many people could not afford water anymore. Relax, said
the world bank there has been some glitches in implementation. The free market
will correct itself. They call it “invisible hand” in economics. Till then some
people might die, but it is going to be fine. Violence and protest shook the
confidence of the local government and the “savior” company was forced
out.  By the way, this savior company was Bechtel Corporation, the largest
construction and civil engineering Company in the United States. In 2000
Bechtel made an annual revenue of over $14 billion, whereas Bolivia’s national
budget at the time was only $2.7. This is called profit maximization, the
governing rule of capitalism.  

I recall that my textbook mentioned one
of the main causes of poverty as lack of natural resources. Yet in the list of
poor nations African countries top the chart. I must confess, back then I
didn’t bother to think. Thoughts never gave you good grades, facts does. Now
that I don’t need grades because I have a job, I think and I think of Guinea, you
must have heard about this country during Ebola outbreak. One of the largest
producers of bauxite in world, is one the poorest countries. This is an example
of modern colonialism. Western
governments are not supposed to wield commercial and political power at the
same time, and certainly not to use one to benefit the other. In colonial
states, The British would develop a relationship with a small group of local
people who would fuse political and commercial power to control the economy.

After they left, the giant multinational companies along
with corrupt state officials kept doing the same.  Colonialism, was just
an extension of capitalism. You conquer lands for cheap labour, natural
resources and later on use the colony to dump your products. Since by this
time, the colony is so dependent on you that you are even selling it needles!

I might not be totally wrong to say that it was the poor
countries that made the rich countries rich. Through debt repayment and through
their resources. Did the rich kept the poor, poor?

Which brings me to next thought, the rich will keep
getting richer and all the mechanism will be designed in such a way that the
wealth remains concentrated in hands of a few. I shall give you facts and figures
unlike me think about it. In the U.S, 1984, the top .1 % had 9.6% of wealth
distribution of country. The bottom 90 % had 35% wealth. In 2012, top .1% had
21.6% of wealth distribution and bottom 90% had 25.6%. While the super-rich are growing their piece of the pie, just
about everybody else’s portion is shrinking. Think of your organization. Do you see the difference, not big
enough? Good, now think of recession in 2008, while many workers were handed a
pink slip. The big bankers were bailed out receiving more than $700 billion. The
inequality in income in the wall streets is more than we can think of. These
banks are too big to fail. 

At this point, you may think I am against capitalism and
pro communism.  Of course not! Just like
you, I am waiting for my next increment. We all want to make more money. There
is nothing wrong with it. But think how many cars do you really need? Capitalism
has helped us so far, but now it has outlived its life. It needs a change in
definition. How about profit maximization with some conditions applied?                  The problem is capitalism has no sense of
right or wrong. So a cheap labour is a cheap labour even if he is teenager
working in hazardous conditions in textile mills of Bangladesh.

Some 6 years back Mr Rangarajan defined poverty for us. He
said anyone living under Rs 47 per day in urban india and Rs 33 per day in
rural india is poor. This made 3 out of 10 Indian poor. So if you are reading this
after a good meal you are probably not one of them, but imagine what if you
have to spend a day with just Rs 47? May be then we will think, think deep.

 

                                                                                                              
Prerna Mishra 

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