Post Mortem

Is the world fattening or flattening?

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 7/5/2019 1:04:36 PM IST

 One of the influential books that staunchly argued in favor of globalization and its forces entitled The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (2005) by Thomas L. Friedman became the best selling point about one and half decades ago which the proponents of globalization used it as their referral point. Friedman argued in his book that the breakthrough in technology and development in telecommunications shall take the world into higher levels by removing all the impediments and international cut-throat competition metamorphosed—survival of the fittest to something where lions and gazelles could co-exist together. 

Further, he argued that the forces of globalization would make the world “flat” by connecting everything by way of lowering the trade and political barriers along with exponential technological advances such as digital revolution driven by the transnational corporations. It was a timely and essential update on globalization, its successes and discontent victory cry of the globalization project. The core of Friedman’s thesis was how globalization has turned effectively the world into a very small place—flat. 

15-years later, a question that arises now pointing to Friedman’s The World is Flat:: Has globalization fattened the world or flattened the world? To an extent for about 2-plus years from the publications of his book the world opened to the logic of free-market allowing free-movement of capital and labor, goods and services so on and so forth. But, in the year 2008, there was crash of global capitalism that totally wrecked the global economic order. The United States of America where capitalism has shown phenomenal push propelled by corporate oligopolies went crashing, which resulted almost all the countries faced the chain-reactions. Prior to 2008, more trade and better internet communication boosted strong growth by leveling the playing field and win-win situation to all—endorsing Friedman’s thesis—World is Flat. 

After 2008 in less than three year there has been a reversal of the “World Flattening” process, rather positing a few becoming fattened. For example, in the United States and Europe, 65% of the major business sectors are dominated by the three largest companies in that sector, up from 40% in the years before 2008. As the power in terms of their assets and wealth started growing, the share of national income that usually go to workers has been shrinking fueling and widening inequality. For instance, the report entitled Public Good or Private Wealth released ahead of the World Economic Forum in January 2019, in Davos, Switzerland, said while billionaires’ fortunes globally increased by 12 per cent last year at $2.5 billion a day, while 3.8 billion people who make up the poorest half of the humanity saw their wealth decline by 11 per cent. 

Describing the Indian scenario Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said, “It’s morally outrageous that a few wealthy individuals are amassing a growing share of India’s wealth, while the poor are struggling to eat their next meal or pay for their child medicines.” “If this obscene inequality between the top 1 per cent and the rest of India’s continues then it will lead to a complete collapse of the social and democratic structure of this country.” To make the matters worse, according to Oxfam CEO that “top 10 per cent of India’s population holds 77.4 per cent of the total national wealth. The glaring widening gap between rich and poor showed that “Indian billionaires’ wealth grew daily by Rs. 2,200 crores in 2018. The divide is so appalling that top 10 per cent of India’s population holds 77.4 percent of the total national wealth. 

It further shows that the wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 percent of the population. The fortunes of Indian billionaires grew by an astronomical 35 per cent per day last year, or by Rs.2, 200 crores daily, while the poorest 10 per cent of the country have continued to remain in debt since 2004”, according to Oxfam report of 2019. “The contrast is ever sharper for the top 1 per cent that holds 51.53 per cent of the national wealth. The bottom 60 per cent, the majority of the population, owns merely 4.8 per cent of the national wealth. Wealth of top 9 billionaires is equivalent to the wealth of the bottom 50 per cent of the population” the global rights group said. The report reveals that India added 18 new billionaires last year raising the total number of billionaires to 119, and their wealth cross the $400 billion mark for the first time. It rose from $325.5 billion in 2017 to $440.1 billion in 2018. This is the single largest annual increase since the 2008 financial crisis,” Oxfam report added.

The report further revealed that “India’s combined revenue and capital expenditure of the Centre and states for medical and public health, sanitation and water is Rs. 2,08,166 crores, less than the wealth of India’s richest billionaire Mukesh Ambani at Rs. 2,80,700 crore. It also analyzed that the ways which the government escalating the crisis inequality by underfunding the public services such as health care and education, on the one hand, while undertaking the multinational corporations and the wealthy, and failing to clamp down on tax dodging” Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said in a statement. The survey also found that “Cutting taxes on wealth predominantly benefits men who own 50 per cent more wealth than women globally, and control over 86 per cent of corporations.

Conversely, when public services are neglected poor women and girls suffer most.” Notably, “Economic inequality plagued by caste, gender and religion need to be tackled on a war-footing. Government must now deliver real change by ensuring the super-rich and corporations pay their fair share of tax and invest this money to strengthen public healthcare and education,” Behar said. India and China will lead the world in terms of number of new billionaires added in the coming decade, during which a total 1,192 new faces are tipped to enter the top of the global rich list. The current number of billionaires stands at 2,252, and it will go up to 3,444 by 2027. 

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, the richest man on the planet, would have a daily kitty of $6.7m if one were to divide his total wealth by the number of days he’s walked the earth. Given his young age, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg actually has a higher proportion of daily wealth than likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. If the government went bankrupt, for how long could the country’s wealthiest person keep it running? The Bloomberg Robin Hood Index found out how long the richest people from 49 countries could pay for their governments’ daily expenses – including all government salaries, welfare programs and public services – and keep them from shutting down. 

The global scenario clearly posits a divide between the globalised class and the victims of globalization. The existing gap would further widen and disparities continue to escalate in the ensuing years. We live in an unequal world where there are inequalities and injustices. Globalization has created a wedge between the haves and have-nots and therefore involved in fattening a few and not flattening the world wherein there won’t be inequality and concentration of wealth in the hands of a few at cost of many. And so, the world is fat and not flat.

Dr. John Mohan Razu

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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