According to the World Bank, the pandemic has pushed about 97 million people into poverty by 2020 all across the world, with many surviving on less than $2 a day.
Since then, there has been little progress.
“Globally, the increase in poverty caused by Covid in 2020 persists, and the Covid-induced poor in 2021 remains at 97 million people,” World Bank analysts wrote in a blog post earlier this year. They did say, though, that overall poverty is expected to decrease this year.
Carolina Sánchez-Páramo, the World Bank’s global director of poverty and equality, compared the epidemic to a natural disaster that will swiftly spread beyond its East Asian heartland.
“We knew the tsunami was coming,” she said. “The question was not if this [economic shock] was going to reach the other developing regions, but when.”
The ultra-rich grew wealthier even while tens of millions of people were forced into poverty. According to the World Inequality Lab, billionaires saw the largest increase in their proportion of wealth in history last year.
According to Oxfam International’s annual inequality report, published in January, whereas it took only nine months for the world’s 1,000 wealthiest people to retrieve their wealth that was lost during the pandemic, it could take over a decade for the poorest people to recover.
According to Shameran Abed, executive director of BRAC International, a group that works to alleviate poverty in Asia and Africa, the wealth gap is expanding, and “the world’s three richest people” could certainly erase off ultra poverty on the planet.
“It’s not their responsibility alone,” he added. “But I’m just saying that generally there’s enough resources [to tackle the problem].”
The top 1 per cent has lately come under fire for failing to help with humanitarian crises.
The director of the UN’s World Food Programme, called on billionaires to “step up now, on a one-time basis” in November, including the world’s two richest individuals, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, .
David Beasley remarked in a televised appearance that donating $6 billion, or approximately 2 per cent of Musk’s net assets, might help end world hunger.
“[It’s] $6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated,” he added.
Musk responded directly to the request, saying on Twitter that if the organisation could explain “just how” the funding would address the problem, he would “sell Tesla stock right now and do it.”
When the UN announced a plan in November, Tesla’s CEO did not reply publicly.
“Poverty is a policy choice,” says Abed, who recently worked with members of parliament in the United Kingdom to declare a “emergency” on the topic.
“We have the know-how to pull large amounts of people out of poverty,” said the nonprofit leader, whose team helped the Roys with a loan that the couple said got them back on their feet.
“There’s plenty of evidence of what works, what doesn’t work.”
The first task, according to experts, is to focus on immunizations.
“We need to make sure that everybody has access to vaccines or some sort of treatment for the pandemic, because till you manage to control the health shock, it’s very hard to think about economic recovery right?” said Sánchez-Páramo. “That’s almost like a necessary condition for anything else to happen.”
Inequality of distribution of Covid-19 vaccines has become a big concern as many of the world’s wealthiest countries stockpile vaccines, purchasing enough inoculate their entire populations multiple times over, while failing to follow through on commitments to share them with the developing world.
Governments also need to concentrate on restarting economic activity that generates jobs, such as in the service sector, as they strive to rebuild, according to Sánchez-Páramo.
Governments all over the world have implemented stimulus packages to help their economies recover over the last two years.
While several have now come under “fiscal pressure” over how much they spent, Sánchez-Páramo highlighted that it was critical not to scale back safety net programmes too hastily.
“They [should] wait for employment to recover before they withdraw income support from some of these more vulnerable households,” she said.
“Because if we consolidate and roll back the support too quickly, we may actually see a second wave of increases in poverty because the employment is not yet there.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)