Oxfam’s latest report highlighted a growing gap between the richest in the world and the poorest.
The standout figure revealed that 82% of the global wealth generated last year went to the richest 1%.
These findings are nothing new, as the fact that very few people own most of the world’s wealth, is one that has been known for decades. One only has to look around at society to see that there is a greater proportion of people struggling to make ends meet in austerity Britain than those that are super rich.
The release of the report coincides with the meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. Many have tried to question the findings in the report and the nuances of how the figures were calculated. But as the chief executive of Oxfam Mark Goldring said:
“However you look at it, this is an unacceptable level of inequality.”
Anyone looking at the world with an honest and open mind would not need Oxfam’s report to see the level of inequality in the world. People across the globe are struggling to live in a world of hyper-capitalism. Globalisation has meant that abject poverty and enormous wealth live side by side, where football clubs pay hundreds of millions of pounds for a single player whilst the very communities in which those clubs exist are ravaged by economic woes.
What is most telling is the reaction of the economic community to the report – rather than be ashamed of these figures, some have tried to argue against the findings.
Mark Littlewood from the Think Tank the Institute of Economic Affairs said of Oxfam that they were more “obsessed with the rich rather than the poor”. He continued:
“Higher taxes and redistribution will do nothing to help the poor; wealth is not a fixed pie. Richer people are also highly taxed people -reducing their wealth won’t lead to redistribution, it will destroy it to the benefit of no-one.”
The arrogance and irony of this statement is laid bare by the fact the super rich do everything in their power to avoid paying tax. Scandals over the last few years such as the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers have exposed the dodgy tax dealings of businessmen, celebrities and even Prime Ministers who have all used offshore companies to avoid taxation in their own countries.
This is in addition to the now no longer hidden secret of massive multinational companies such as Google, Apple, Starbucks and their ilk, all using loopholes and clever restructuring to avoid tax globally.
It is clear we live in a world of inequality which is created, perpetuated and propped up by the system of capitalism – the blame for wealth inequality lies at its door. Many people see the inherent fault that lies within capitalism but are unable to find an alternative to the current economic system that controls the world.
This is where Muslims need to articulate the Khilafah as an alternative that builds its economic policies around the distribution of the wealth and not its hoarding by the few.
Islam does not prevent people from working hard and gaining wealth, it however does not allow a situation to develop where the super rich can manipulate the system.
Allah (swt) in the Quran says:
…كَيْ لَا يَكُونَ دُولَةً بَيْنَ الْأَغْنِيَاءِ مِنكُمْ…
“…That it does not become a commodity between the rich among you…” [Al-Hashr: 7]