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‘Growing number of persons facing exclusion’

Zambia Congress of Trade Unions secretary general Cosmas Mukuka says the trade union leadership is saddened by the growing number of persons facing exclusion whilst wealth is concentrated in the hands of very few people.

“This unfortunately is a recipe for instability, fragility and continuous race to the bottom. This is the reason we are demanding for a new social contract in which workers, job creation and the environment will be at the centre of a regional and inclusive agenda for recovery and resilience,” says Mukuka.

The level of exclusion and inequality in today’s world is frightening – pervasive. Then you imagine the kind of fortune or wealth in the hands of a few individuals! And today, Zambia is becoming one of the most unequal nations in our region. Our levels of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and disease are high while a small group of people is stinking rich. Our economy is serving mostly the interests of the petty bourgeois! The rest make do by sharing crumbs that fall from the rich’s tables – as if poverty can be shared.

Fidel Castro once asked, “Why do some people have to go barefoot so that others can drive luxury cars? Why are some people able to live only 35 years in order that others can live 70 years? Why do some people have to be miserably poor in order that others can be extravagantly rich? I speak for all the children in the world who don’t even have a piece of bread.” As if to offer a response to himself, Fidel also said, “The truth is that after several decades of neoliberalism, the rich are becoming increasingly richer while the poor are both more numerous and increasingly poorer.”

This is why we agree with Cosmas when he warns that exclusion whilst wealth is concentrated in the hands of very few people is recipe for instability.

Early this year, Joe Biden talked about the need for the one per cent wealthy Americans to pay their fair share of taxes.

He cited a study that showed that chief executive officers make 320 times what the average worker in their corporations makes.

“The pandemic has only made things worse. Twenty million Americans lost their jobs in the pandemic – working and middle class Americans. At the same time, roughly 650 billionaires in America saw their net worth increase by more than $1 trillion – in the same exact period. And they’re now worth more than $4 trillion…My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked and it is time to grow the economy from the bottom and the middle out,” said Biden.

Indeed, our world cannot be founded and sustained on the heels of an unequal global economic order. Globalisation – the obtaining global production and trading system – has served to increase poverty and inequality. It has generally been observed that globalisation undermines labour organisations and informal networks of solidarity thereby leading to the deterioration of working conditions for vast numbers of people and widening income inequalities.

To this effect, Bernie Sanders noted that, “Today, the top one-tenth of one per cent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 per cent. The economic game is rigged, and this level of inequality is unsustainable. We need an economy that works for all, not just the powerful…Let us wage a moral and political war against the gross wealth and income inequality… […] A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much and so many have so little.”

And as Pope Francis rightly observed, “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.” He further notes that, “Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.”

We urgently need a globalisation of justice, equity and peace if we are to usher in a better world./

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