Posted January 26, 2014
by Jerry Alatalo
“The type of character produced by wealth lies on the surface for all to see. Wealthy men are insolent and arrogant; their possession of wealth affects their understanding; they feel as if they had every good thing that exists; wealth becomes a standard of value for everything else, and therefore they imagine there is nothing they cannot buy. They are luxurious and ostentatious;… ostentatious and vulgar.”
Oxfam International’s recent report showing that 85 people own wealth that is equal the wealth of 3.5 billion people has gone viral, leading to numerous articles and discussions in the world’s media outlets. After deciding to learn some more about Oxfam International, I learned that it is headed by a woman whose name is Winnie Byanyima.
So, then there was a search for recent interviews of Ms. Byanyima. There was one of her at a recent meeting on economic and business development in her homeland of Africa, where she expressed her concerns about the same wealth inequality on Earth explained in the viral report – which was published after this particular interview. She finds that economics and job-creation in African nations is reason for some excitement but with a few caveats.
Her concern has to do with the extreme wealth inequality as it relates to instability and insecurity. Ms. Byanyima has found that historical events on the continent have led to a situation where Africa’s tremendous natural resources wealth has exited through a variety of means. Among these are tax breaks and concessions, corruption and bribery, disappearing funds, and tax schemes which have allowed transnational corporations to avoid paying millions and billions of dollars.
This situation, where huge sums are escaping from African nations’ treasuries, has tied the hands of governments on the continent in relation to societal spending on education, health, and job-creation. Ms. Byanyima points out that this has led to poverty and frustration of the people, and is a major factor which has led to wars and killing on the continent. Her comments in that November 2013 interview reflected the reality which is Africa.
I next heard Ms. Byanyima when she was part of a six-member panel at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland held recently.
Many who are reading this understand the concept of “élite capture of wealth and power” leading to domination of political power in nations and regions around the Earth. The Oxfam report confirms that such a situation is real and is an issue which many are more intensely aware of. When Ms. Byanyima spoke to the audience and her fellow panel members, I noticed that the woman moderator cut her off in mid-sentence almost every time, changing the subject and asking a separate-issue question of someone else on the stage.
Maybe, because I was keen on hearing more from Ms. Byanyima, it seemed that the white woman moderator was putting up roadblocks in front of her. For example, at one point Ms. Byanyima was making a point about Africa’s “going down the road of more and more insecurity”, due to the fact that 6 of the 10 nations on Earth with the greatest wealth inequality were in Africa, when the moderator abruptly cut her off and changed the subject, turning to another panelist for comments.
She was able to make some important points. Regarding the lack of transparency in the transactions of transnational corporations in various African nations, Ghana has a law which requires very specific reporting to the Ghana government of how much oil is taken out of the ground, all contracts’ content, pricing and earnings, etc. At the same time Uganda has no such law or requirements for transnational corporations.
She was on the stage in Davos, Switzerland with political and business leaders – at the World Economic Forum for an hour-long discussion about the future of the African continent. Oxfam International had just released the viral “85 people” report. Oxfam is a non-governmental organization (NGO), Ms. Byanyima being the only person of six on the discussion panel associated with an NGO, the others consisted of three members (two black, one white) of the business community and two presidents (black) of African countries.
So, I went to look for more lengthy talks with Ms. Byanyima to learn more about Oxfam and the organization that produced the “85 people” viral report. While searching I found the following outstanding documentary “Stealing Africa: Why Poverty?” – which tells viewers in a more effective way what Winnie Byanmiya was trying to say at the World Economic Forum 2014. Come to think of it, the panel at Davos could have been part of the audience, replacing them with the audience’s viewing of this film.
About the film, let me first say that I was very surprised that I had never heard of it until today. For those who appreciate excellent documentaries, may I say that if you have not viewed this film yet, have concerns about the economic reality on Earth and wish to increase your awareness of that reality (the reality provided in the Oxfam report), you won’t be disappointed. Great credit goes to the producers of “Stealing Africa” for creating a powerful expose that identifies a world-wide practice that is responsible for most of the problems on this Earth in 2014.
The film focuses on Zambia, one of the world’s largest suppliers of copper, and the Zambian government’s relationship with Glencore Corporation, which has extracted billions of dollars of copper in the years since it started operations in Zambia. Without giving you a play-by-play of the documentary let me say that the film provides more confirmation to the writings of John Perkins in his blockbuster expose book, “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”. Perkins description of his job as an economic hitman mirrors what has occurred in Zambia perfectly.
The Zambian government took large loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, came to the point where they could not meet the repayments, and then sold its state-run copper mining operation to private investors for cash. That the Zambian president when the sale occurred was later convicted of corruption, that he had 11 trunks full of designer clothing – 206 designer suits, 185 shirts, 36 jackets, 157 pairs of trousers, 64 pairs of shoes, and 74 ties (all expensive designer brands made in Switzerland and Italy) – and that Marc Rich, who founded the company and who was in the early 1980’s the world’s most-wanted white-collar criminal – eventually pardoned by William Jefferson Clinton in the last days of his presidency – add to the film’s extraordinary power.
That Glencore Corporation’s conversion from private to public made its CEO $8.8 billion, and 400 other employees over $100 million each, gives people a good clue how the world has “evolved” to the point where 85 individuals own as much wealth as 3.5 billion people.
For more information visit whypoverty.net
(Thank you to Why Poverty @ YouTube)