our world at the start of 2017
As we progress deeper into the third millennium, the United States (US) is still the largest and most dynamic economy the world has ever seen and its influence pervades every continent on the planet. Even after the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, with just 4.6% of the world's population, the US economy comprises 22.5% of world Gross National Income*(GNI), absorbs 24% of the annual world output of natural resources and pumps out 18% of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The US is such a dominant player in the world that just one state, California, has an economy roughly on a par with that of Russia, whilst the third largest state, Texas, has a greater output than all of sub-Saharan Africa.
However, the US is only first amongst equals in the wealthy league of 35 advanced economies which includes all 19 countries of the Euro Zone**, Japan, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Israel. Collectively these countries are often referred to as the 'North'. And together with only 15.3% of the world's population they make up a colossal 50.6% of global output.
According to the 2015 Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report total world wealth is calculated at US$250 trillion, equivalent to US$52,400 (£39,400) per adult, and is more than twice the US$117 trillion figure for 2000. At the same time, according to Oxfam, the gap between the richest and poorest has now become absurd with the world's 85 richest people having the same wealth as the poorest half of humanity.
To be included
in the richest 1% of the world's population you need assets minus debt
worth US$759,900 (£571,400) or more, including the value of equity
in your home. To get included in the top 10% of global wealth holders
net assets of more than US$68,800 (£51,700) are needed and here
it is estimated that this top 10% hold 70% of the world's wealth. For
inclusion in the top 50% net assets of US$3,210 (£2,400) are needed.
At the other end of the table the report suggests that the bottom 50%
of the global population own less than 1% of total wealth.
(In 1820 the ratio of living standards between the richest and poorest countries was some five to one. Then industrialisation cut in and the gap started to widen explosively. By 1913 the ratio was 11:1; 1950 35:1; 1973 44:1; 1993 72:1; and 2005 90:1.
In recent years some of the larger developing countries have made giant strides in increasing economic growth year on year and the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) now account for 21.6% of world GNI compared to just 12% ten years ago. At the same time, however, China now accounts for 28% of CO2 emissions ( US 18%; EU 10%; India 7.2%; UK 1.2%)
Since the turn of the millennium African economies, too, have started to grow more rapidly thanks mainly to the insatiable demand for natural resources by China, US and EU. Unfortunately, though the gap between North and South may now be starting to close, the majority of Africans are no better off financially as few new jobs are being created, there are ever more mouths to feed and the domestic gap between the rich and poor continues to widen.
The world is also becoming more urban with more than half the population now living in towns and cities. And this proportion is likely to get bigger for economists calculate that urban dwellers are 50% more productive than rural workers and 30% more prosperous.
For most of us living in the North, even after the recent near financial meltdown, we still have everything we need to make the most of our lives. We live in comfortable well-heated homes within easy reach of shops where the shelves are stacked with food from all over the world, clean refreshing water gushes out of taps and costs very little, first-rate medical services are there for everyone from the cradle to the grave, schools give every child the golden ticket to compete in our modern world where the choice of jobs has never been greater, welfare is there for those falling on difficult times, infinite communications and entertainment can be accessed on our mobile phones whilst future holidays are often planned before the next one has been taken.
Meanwhile, in most of the developing world, life as we know it, hangs in stark contrast.
Here 2.7bn people struggle to live on less than $2 (£1.50) per day, 2.5bn people have no access to a toilet, 890m people risk their lives everyday by drinking dirty water, 870m people go to bed hungry every night, medical services - where there are any - are overwhelmed and often unaffordable, 59m children do not attend primary school and electricity, which has powered economies in the North for almost 100 years, is still not available to 2bn people in the South. Then there are the horrendous living conditions in most shanty towns with stinking open sewers running through the streets where children play, leaking roofs that make everything damp for days on end and crime and violence that can erupt at any time in places where crushing poverty is a way of life.
this translates into a depressing death toll which should be at the front
of all media reports in the North - for every single day in the South
***** 48,000 PEOPLE, IN TOTAL, DIE NEEDLESSLY EVERY DAY - PARENTS, GRANDPARENTS, SONS, DAUGHTERS - AND FEW PEOPLE SEEM TO CARE *****.
Yet the world does care when tragedy strikes as was shown by the phenomenal international response to the 2004 Boxing Day Asian tsunami disaster where an estimated 230,000 people lost their lives in 14 countries. Perhaps this was because it was a 'real' event where TV thrust the death and devastation directly into our living space and so people everywhere felt they wanted to help alleviate the suffering. As a result they gave magnanimously to the Disasters Emergency Committee and other charities to help save survivors and to rebuild lives and livelihoods.
The tsunami was a natural disaster and the world-wide response was magnificent; the death of 48,000 men, women and children needlessly everyday is a preventable disaster, which sadly has, as yet, seen the world unable to respond effectively.
For those who are 'lucky' enough to survive in the very poorest countries often 85% of the population are forced to eke out monotonous lives as subsistence farmers barely able to scratch a living for themselves and their families from land long paralysed by constant use. There a typical day breaks down as follows:-
5 hours working in the fields
Most of the world's poorest nations are in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in its annual Human Development Report calculates progress throughout the world by using three criteria in its Human Development Index (HDI) - life expectancy, mean/expected years of schooling and GNI per capita. It then places countries into very high, high, medium and low human development. In 2015, in a list of 188 countries, 36 out of the 44 Low Human Development countries were in sub-Saharan Africa. One more country, Somalia, had figures been available, would surely have been in this group too. That means that 37 out of the 49 nations which comprise sub-Saharan Africa are hugely under-developed. Furthermore, excluding the island nations of Seychelles and Mauritius, every country in the region, including South Africa and Botswana, are to be found from 106th position and below in the 2015 Human Development Index.
in this our modern world, as Charles Dickens may have put it:-
short, we in the North have won the international lottery whilst people
in the South are still struggling to buy a ticket!
Former U K prime minister, Tony Blair, has called the current condition of Africa 'a scar on the conscience of the world.' And he is right. For in this modern age of globalisation when man has never known a period of such creativity and technological advancement, why have so many people in so many countries in Africa been left behind?
Several reasons can be put forward:- poor climate, bad geography, perennial famines, water shortages, pervasive illiteracy, chronic diseases, smouldering conflicts, rampant corruption, dysfunctional government, economic mismanagement, weak institutions, a small middle class, tribalism, strangling bureaucracy, lack of property rights, dilapidated infrastructure (roads, ports, power, telecommunications), tax evasion/transfer pricing, unpayable debts, trade barriers and miserly overseas development aid (ODA). And under the various headings (e.g. FOOD, WATER, HEALTH etc.) just1WORLD tackles these issues and considers the present situation.
However, it is in RECOMMENDATIONS that we prioritise and deal with the main problem confronting the people of Africa as they seek to escape from poverty - rotten government. We then go on to offer constructive solutions which, if effected, could soon start to heal the ugly face of poverty found throughout most of the continent.
* GNI per hd is basically the total of goods and services produced by a country plus income earned from overseas divided by the population of that country.
**European Union member states using the EURO:- Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Austria, Finland, Portugal, Greece, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus, Malta, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. Non-EU nations within Europe using the EURO are Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Vatican State.
(The history of countries participating in currency blocks is racked with failure for without political union divergences can only be addressed by forcing the weak to take a cut in their living standards and/or writing off debt. The Euro is no exception and before long we are likely to witness a series of countries, not just Greece, having to exit and to bring back their own currencies. For bailouts just prolong the inevitable.)