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The madness of economic figures before and after coronavirus: what will the poor do?

Healthcare professionals work at intensive care unit of Munci Selim Hospital, where Covid-19 patients are treated, as they spend Eid al-Adha next to their patients away from their families in Tunis, Tunisia on July 20, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Healthcare professionals work at intensive care unit treating Covid-19 patients Tunis, Tunisia on 20 July 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

The latest study presented by Oxfam to the last Davos Forum included shocking figures, although they were a continuation of other previous figures by the foundation and other institutions.

The title of the report, "Inequality Kills" is enough to give us an idea about ​​its content.

Some of what it mentions:

The world's 10 richest people have doubled their fortunes since March 2020.

A new billionaire has been created every 26 hours since the pandemic.

99 per cent of humanity is worse off because of lockdown, lower international trade and less international tourism and, as a result, an additional 160 million people have been pushed into poverty.

The low income of the world's poorest people contributes to about 21,000 deaths each day.

This is on the global level; as for the Arab world, the situation is miserable, as well.

READ: Mysterious things are happening within Egyptian banks

According to a study published by the Political Science in the Middle East website two months ago, which relied on ESCWA figures, 116 million people are classified as poor in ten Arab countries included in the ESCWA survey (41 per cent of the total population), while 25 per cent of the population was classified as susceptible to poverty. The percentage of the poor in Egypt increased from 19.5 per cent in 2005 to 28 per cent in 2015.

The study added that "if this level of poverty/susceptibility to poverty at 66 per cent applies to the entire Arab world, this means that 250 million people may be poor or susceptible to poverty out of the total population of the Arab world of 400 million."

The international equation does not differ from its Arab counterpart in this context, nor the reasons, with the difference that, in the case of the Western system, although it witnesses this terrible disparity in income, the State is still responsible for ensuring the minimum reasonable standard of living for the citizen, regardless of the nature of their work and income. Meanwhile, in the Arab world and the rest of the developing world, the State does not offer anything of value to the poor; instead, in order to collect more and improve its position in international economic indicators, and in order to obtain more loans, it has increased taxes and lifted subsidies on basic goods, which exacerbates the misery of the poor and wipes out the middle class, or what remains of it.

All of this is happening in light of the regimes' reassurance given their use of force, and they do not allow people to protest. Anyone observing the magnitude of the decisions that have affected the poor in a country like Egypt in recent years, will realise the reality of what is happening. These decisions and measures are promoted by talking about the improvement of the ranking in international economic indicators, as if the indicators could feed the poor, as one economic writer put it.

We are faced with a very clear equation in the Arab world, and in many countries of the world, in addition to an international equation between the same countries.

READ: Egypt announces COVID-19 5th wave

It is an equation that says that the disparity between the rich and the poor is increasingly high, while the situation of the poor is increasing in misery, which may lead to hungry revolutions in the medium term.

As for the disparity between countries, or their citizens to be more precise, and in light of the communications revolution, it will exacerbate the phenomenon of illegal immigration. This is especially since the unemployment rates, in particular, especially youth unemployment, have become staggeringly high, and that was before the coronavirus – they just became worse after the pandemic.

What is the solution?

The lessons are many, and some of them were mentioned in the afore-mentioned Oxfam report. They are almost the same as the teachings of our religion. The current equation: The rich get richer while the poor become poorer, is the opposite of these teachings, as the Quran says, "As for gains granted by Allah to His Messenger from the people of 'other' lands, they are for Allah and the Messenger, his close relatives, orphans, the poor and 'needy' travellers so that wealth may not merely circulate among your rich" and it goes against logic as well.

In this context, the Oxfam UK Director, Danny Sriskandarajah, called for supporting bolder economic strategies to "change the deadly course we are on".

These strategies include more progressive tax regimes, which impose higher levies on capital and wealth, with the revenue spent on "quality universal healthcare and social protection for all", Sriskandarajah said.

READ: Under biomedical security states, Israeli apartheid may soon go global

What should be said here, with regard to our Arab reality, is that the victory of the "counter-revolution" over the "Arab Spring" has resulted in both more oppression and more poverty at the same time, although the path of poverty was already in place but was escalated due to the pandemic. However, this is not final, as anger is gradually escalating; youth unemployment is at the core of the explosion. Unless all of this is reconsidered, social explosions will inevitably come, whether sooner or later, especially since there is also a clear failure to address external challenges, which of course are many.

What follows this is the need to say that the living forces in the nation, particularly the Islamic forces, should make this aspect a priority in their movement, by expressing the concerns of the poor and marginalised groups, and by offering economic programs with a fair vision for them, away from the sad imitation of economic liberal programs.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 23 January 2022

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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