The ultra rich
Careful readers of our August issue will have noticed that we gave two different figures for some statistics from the UN Development Report 1998. These were based on newspaper reports. To clarify the situation here is an extract from the original source:
“New estimates show that the world’s 225 richest people have combined wealth of over $1 trillion, equal to the annual income of the poorest 47% of the world’s people (2.5 billion) . . .
The three richest people have assets that exceed the combined GDP of the 48 least developed countries . . .
Another striking contrast is the wealth of the 225 richest people compared with what is needed to achieve universal access to basic social services for all. It is estimated that the additional cost of achieving and maintaining universal access to basic education for all, basic health care for all, reproductive health care for all women, adequate food and safe water and sanitation for all is roughly $40 billion a year. This is less than 4% of the combined wealth of the 225 richest people in the world.”
These are the figures that should be quoted. But note that what is being compared is the wealth of the ultra-rich with the income of the poor, which might give rise to the impression that the solution is simply to transfer the wealth of the rich to the poor. In fact the solution is to make the wealth of the rich the common property of all.