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Losing focus

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Anti-poverty campaigners Oxfam said last week that the world has mostly failed to address a “dangerous” increase in inequality in the wake of the COVID pandemic, as it revealed the findings of its “Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index” (CRI) study which examined actions and policies of governments to tackle inequality in the first two years of the pandemic.

“COVID-19 has increased inequality worldwide, as the poorest were hit hardest by both the disease and its profound economic impacts,” said the report that is compiled every two years.

The charity assessed 161 governments from 2022 to 2022, after what it called “the biggest global health emergency in a century.”

It found that half of the nations covered cut their spending on social protection and 70 percent slashed education budgets.

When the pandemic slashed consumer spending during the lockdowns, which in turn slashed taxation revenues, 143 out of the 161 nations surveyed failed to increase taxation on the wealthy, with 11 even cutting such taxes further.

Oxfam also found that two-thirds of countries failed to increase their minimum wage in line with gross domestic product.

“The explosion of the COVID-19 pandemic and the health, social and economic crises that ensued have supercharged poverty and inequality,” the report concluded. “The world witnessed sharp increases in poverty for the first time in decades, while the wealth of the richest people and corporate profits soared.

Oxfam scored national and global leaders for failing to introduce to tackle inequality aggressively and also called upon governments around the world to refrain from austerity measures that would worsen the lot of the poor.

As the pandemic exposed many government’s biases towards the wealthy and willingness to sacrifice the poor, it is becoming apparent that more has to be done to reverse the trend, especially now that the pandemic seems to finally be under control. With COVID no longer valid as an excuse to lose its way, government leaders now have to recalibrate their goals and retrain the focus on poverty and inequality.*

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