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SP leader Emile Roemer: Who owns the world?

18 January 2016

SP leader Emile Roemer: Who owns the world?

The sixty-two richest people on earth own as much as do the poorer half of the world’s population, a total of 3.5 billion people. This is the scandal of our times. So much wealth among so few people and a growing group with virtually nothing at all. This disrupts society.

A great deal of research has been done into what inequality does to a society. What it shows is that in countries with high levels of inequality, people tend to have low levels of trust in either each other or the authorities, criminality is higher and economic growth slower. Inequality is like dry rot. It remains invisible up to the moment that you begin to see a society slowly fall apart.

The Dutch government is encouraging the further development of inequality in our country. The super-rich pay hardly any taxes on their property. The last twenty years has seen tax on capital fall steeply and income taxes on work just as steeply rise. That’s to say nothing about the multinationals which avoid a trillion euros a year in taxation in the EU alone. Division and inequality don’t arrive by chance, but are the results of years of neoliberal policies.

If we don’t confront the growing inequality in the Netherlands and the world, the damaging consequences are incalculable. Self-enrichment in the face of extreme poverty sets people and countries against each other. In our own country it will lead to a new underclass, a large group of people presented with the bill in the form of insecure ‘flexible’ work or lower benefits. Internationally the effects will be an increased flow of refugees fleeing the hopelessness in their own countries, and greater tensions between the small group who have everything and the massive group who have almost nothing.

Who owns the world? The richest 1%? Or all of us? Reducing inequality is more than necessary. We should make a start in our own country. By introducing a millionaire tax, we’d be taking a first step. In addition, we should put an end to the Netherlands as a tax haven. By cooperating with other countries, tax avoidance must be tackled. In these ways we have to demand more from multinationals and from millionaires..

And if we want the earth to belong to all of us, we must also conduct trade with each other fairly and thus ensure equality of opportunity for all the countries of the world.

We will not succeed in ridding the world of poverty today or tomorrow, but what we can do today is take the first steps towards closing the divide.

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