Inequality has always been there, but it has been widened and made more visible by the COVID-19 pandemic, says the Oxfam Report. It stated that over the past two years, people have died when they contracted an infectious disease because they did not get vaccines in time, even though those vaccines could have been widely produced and distributed if the technology had been shared.
Jayati Ghosh, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, USA, in the forewords of the Oxfam Report “Inequality Kills”, says people have died because they did not get essential hospital care or oxygen when they needed it because of shortages in underfunded public health systems.
“They have died because other illnesses and diseases could not be treated in time as public health facilities were overburdened and they could not afford private care. They have died because of despair and desperation of the loss of livelihood. They have died of hunger because they could not or would not provide the social protection essential to survive the crisis,” she wrote. “And while they died, the richest people in the world got richer than ever and some of the largest companies made unprecedented profits.”
The report says the hundreds of millions of people who have suffered disproportionately during this pandemic were already likely to be more disadvantaged. They were more likely to live in low- and middle-income countries, to be women or girls, to belong to socially discriminated-against groups, to be informal workers. These people were unable to influence policy.
Ghosh noted that it is not just killing those with less political voice, but it is also killing the planet. “This makes the strategy of privileging profits over people not just unjust but monumentally stupid. Economies will not grow and markets will not deliver prosperity to anyone no matter how powerful, on a dead planet.”
Oxfam suggests a change in course is essential. There is a need for systemic solutions. “Reversal of the disastrous privatizations of finance, of knowledge, of public services and utilities of the natural commons. But we also need accessible fiscal policies like taxation of the wealthy and of multinational corporations.”
Furthermore, the structural inequalities of gender, race, ethnicity and caste needs to be undone because it feeds into the economic disparities.