Inequality: My Responsibility into the Irrecoverable Losses? #BAD2014, #Bad14 #BlogAction14, #inequality


It was so impressing to join the world bloggers discussing inequality, the #BAD2014, #Bad14 #BlogAction14, #inequality. The topic is of concern at Eastern DRC, Reconciliation & Development Forum due to the blogger’s first-hand experience of what inequality is. I do simply find it as irreparable losses, though the blogger still struggles to find out who has benefited from it. To put it clear, the content of the article focuses mainly on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how can inequality be perceived in the specific context. In this article, inequality is closely discussed as the income inequality because the latter looks as easier to measure; though inequality can take different dimensions. A specific feature of the article is that it boldly underscores my responsibility as well as that of rulers on the second level.

Though inequality and poverty are closely related, most societies around the world face the challenge to get people equally treated. I am not sure of what comes first between inequality and poverty, but largely it may sound that the former tends to create the latter. The assumption may still be debatable, but it draws the argument from E. Wayne Nafziger. In his analysis, Nafziger states that “most income inequality is due to people differing in their ability to perceive and utilize economic opportunities[1]. In his views, the key question is about equality of opportunities but it is not the outcome that matters.

From America, Europe, Asia to Africa, inequality remains an issue that requires attention from policy-makers. There is even a possibility that even advanced economies may widely be still suffering from inequality as do less advanced ones. The wide discrepancy within the developed societies is the proportion/share of those detaining productive assets. Though unfortunate, recent findings have proven that 10% of the world richest keep more than 80% of world assets. At the same time, the wealthiest first top percentage has in its hand around 50% of the world assets. The same situation of small percentage controlling large assets is even found in US, though the country is known for having a huge annual per capita income ranging around $38,000. In any case, despite the way resources are distributed, redistributed as well as equal opportunities, inequality needs to be honestly discussed.

IMG_20131218_153147

Despite the level of inequality, most industrialized societies are likely considered as proportionately equal. These societies are likely to consider the minimum standard-living of its citizens through mechanisms aiming at supporting the weaker. The fact is, among the top 10 unequal societies, most of these are from the developing countries. Based on Gini[2] coefficient, the top 10[3] countries are: Namibia (Gini 70.7), South Africa (Gini 65.0), Lesotho (Gini 63.2), Botswana (Gini 63.0), Sierra Leone (Gini 62.9), Central African Republic (Gini 61.3), Haiti (Gini 59.2), Colombia (Gini 58.5), Bolivia (Gini 58.2), and Honduras (Gini 57.7). Thus, a first glance leads to generally suspect that reasons behind poverty are likely the ones explaining the level of inequality. That is, the way resources are accessed, monopolized as well as weak institutions can be finger-pointed as being the source of poverty on one hand; and inequality on the other. What about the case of interest of this article?

In the practical case of DRC, despite lack of regular statistics, the 2006 DRC’s Gini Coefficient was roughly estimated around 44.4; quite alarming as does that of US. However, it appears that inequality might unlikely concern the society as poverty does. Nonetheless, both aspects are intertwined and largely related to illegal accumulation of national resources from those who would rather have the responsibility of creating conducive environment. As the accumulation of resources, into the hands of small group of people has widened poverty; hence it has been enlarging inequality. Thus, it falls into a vicious circle of illegal accumulation of resources, inequality, poverty, inequality…

Few characteristics can explain how inequality and poverty in DRC must concern the world and specifically the Congolese society. With unreliable statistics as the state went absent for decades, it is believed that 70% of the 75 million Congolese population live below the poverty line. That is, 52.5 million live on daily basis with $0.82 per day. By common sense, it is easier to guess who detains the large share of national resources. Whatever economics lessons, accounting and rationality principles that you could have mastered, the daily amount must fall short of the daily needs. And what strikes is that resources are not scarce as you can imagine; rather, the problem originates from the allocation of national resources into individual businesses. Obviously, the potential rich country, with all kinds of natural resources wouldn’t have people who accumulate, through rent-seeking, millions of millions of dollars on the detriment of ordinary citizens.

Road infrastructures
Road infrastructures

On the other hand, discrepancies are wide between the rural compared to urban areas. It is possible to find at least in large cities health facilities, education infrastructures access to water (roughly between 8-14% in rural areas, depending on estimation) and electricity. Unfortunately, access to electricity in rural areas is around 1% for a population estimated to 53 million. That is, roughly 87,500 out of 9 million households that can access electricity while the country has a potential giant reservoir of energy; among the first in world. Subsequently, opportunities that may come along with electricity into villages can no longer be accessed. Hence, rural population has to find on the way how to deal with these challenges that hamper their expansion; while harming sustainably their future.

In rural areas, decent housing, education infrastructures, health facilities, access to water have become a dream as if you think to join National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the sky. Just imagine the school for your children or the one you used to attend and what type of health facilities in which you may get treated. Then take a time to compare it with these facilities below. Do you think can someone be competitive while coming from these socio-economic conditions? Beyond these aspects discussed above, inequality/poverty in DRC is widely gender based. Whatever possibilities are, men and women are unequally served not only because the society do not pay attention to gender equality, rather because it is a hard fight requiring strength. Therefore, the ‘physically discriminated’ or weak if agreed, cannot simply afford the struggle.

Health Facility
Health Facility

It remains hard to name-pointing those who benefited from the victimization of these innocent people. Nevertheless, it is generally agreed that embezzlement, corruption… are channels from which rules can be held responsible of these disarrays. But there is another side of the coin. When considering my individual journey, I tend to agree that I have been responsible too by keeping quiet in front of these muddles. Don’t boggle your mind please. I currently think that I would have done much better to save this situation that has victimized and still victimizing millions of ordinary citizens. I’m sure, it would have taken long to have these “lazy-irresponsible” people understanding that it’s our right to live as they do, but the end would inevitably be that. Consequently, claiming these rights has to be a daily struggle and wish I could keep watching what they are daily doing to have our resources well managed.

There are many reasons that the article stresses rather on my responsibility. The reader will unlikely disagree that all rights necessitate hard struggle to get them respected. Specifically, history has shown experience of how long it took to have them rehabilitated throughout America, Europe, South-Africa; and what have been their results. The struggle of today may not solve at once all existing problems, but at least it leads to the acceptance and recognition of equal treatment before the law and access to resources. Even though it would take time, the rest will be a question of adaptation to competition as long as those yet reluctant are getting convinced. Thus, whenever I failed to fight for my rights, it gives these lazy guys another room to accumulate the remaining.

A practical example can illustrate the above viewpoint of the necessity of struggling for my rights. The argument has been drawn from Americans electing a first African-American in the white house. Thomas Borstelman expresses in his book that Americans by electing an African-American, “it did not mean that racial discrimination and prejudice [to African-Americans] had disappeared. It certainly did not mean that black economic disadvantage has ended. But the election did mark a level of acceptance of blacks in position of authority that would have seemed nearly unimaginable a generation earlier”[4]. Borsteleman adds that the ‘marking point’ expresses that even “conservatives agreed result as evidence of striking degree of equality in American public life and opportunities”.

School in rural DRC
School in rural DRC

The reader may consider the illustration of African-American in the white house as slightly fitting the discussion above. However, the lesson that the blogger has kept is the long struggle that went fought to reach this point. From Martin Luther King to what happened all along till 2008 was a long struggle but the end tend to show that we all can be the same if the environment and opportunities are likely the same. Since I kept quiet in front of these messes, I’ve realized that I am the first person to be blamed about what is happening right now.

On the other hand, there is a need to think about my responsibility by analyzing Joseph E. Stigltiz point of views. In Price of Inequality, he states that “we are paying a high price for our large and growing inequality and because our inequality is likely to continue to grow ―unless we do something ― the price we pay is likely to grow too” and those in the middle and at the bottom will pay the highest price but also the society as whole”. He definitely revealed that “widely unequal societies do not function efficiently, and their economies are neither stable nor sustainable in the long run”[5]. By deduction, Stigltiz is predicting a worse future if nothing is done to fight against inequality around the world. Thus, by combating inequality, there is hope that the world may get rid of poverty too as the former seems widening the latter.

In a nutshell, it sounds that when keeping quiet and crossing fingers expecting that things will go well may finally be a ‘coward’ attitude. So long as rulers cannot reasonably consider that rights to get equally treated as theirs are worth of esteem, they have at least to know that I’ve been weak but not blind. Don’t bring again a gun to support the struggle as it starts once by destroying, rather join by voicing and calling that they have to stop embezzling our resources as they belong to public not to their individuals families. Do you have other options of how to claim these rights?

Ntanyoma R. Delphin

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Delphino12

Email: rkmbz1973@gmail.com

Blog: www.edrcrdf.wordpress.com

[1] Nafziger, E. Wayne (1988) Inequality in Africa: Political Elites, Proletariat, Peasants and the Poor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

[2] Gini Coefficient:The Gini coefficient is usually defined mathematically based on the Lorenz curve, which plots the proportion of the total income of the population (y axis) that is cumulatively earned by the bottom x% of the population (see diagram). The line at 45 degrees thus represents perfect equality of incomes. The Gini coefficient can then be thought of as the ratio of the area that lies between the line of equality and the Lorenz curve (marked A in the diagram) over the total area under the line of equality (marked A and B in the diagram); i.e., G = A / (A + B).

[3]The 39 Most Unequal Countries in the World: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-unequal-countries-in-the-world-2011-10?op=1

[4] Borstelman, Thomas (2012) The 1970s: A New Global History from Civil Rights to Economic inequality. Princeton (N.J): Princeton University Press

[5] Stiglitz, E. J. (2012) Price of Inequality. London: Allen Lane

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