Deepmala 33 – Globalisation in an unequal world

We can look at the problem of poverty at four specific levels. The first is poverty at the level of individual or the family. The second is poverty at the community level, where the whole community is poor, not only in terms of money, but also in terms of basic human needs. The third level of poverty is at the social level. This is a situation where despite rising above poverty as an individual or a family, one may still encounter poverty of another kind – due to lack of social respect. The fourth is poverty at the national level. As individual may be rich, but will still belong to a poor country if his country is poor.

The challenge for developing countries is in giving a decent and dignified existence to their poorer sections. The poor have to be brought into the mainstream of social and economic activities. The would imply improvement in their living standards, as well as sustained access to resources for maintaining their improved standards of living. Only then would they experience social upliftment and feel as much a part of the nation as their better off counterparts.

Does globalisation have the ability to serve this purpose ? It certainly does. But its success in reducing poverty would depend upon how individual countries approach the issue of globalisaitoin. The fear regarding globalisation is not entirely unfounded. This is because, unfortunately, we live in a world where inequality continues to be a major divisive force.

At the end of the 90s, one fifth of the world’s population living in the richest countries had access to 86 per cent of the total world output. Another one fifth of the world’s people, living in the poorer countries could enjoy only 1 per cent of the world output. The world’s 200 richest people more than doubled their net worth in four years to 1998 to more than one trillion dollars. The assets of the top three billionaires of the world are more than the combined Gross Natural Product of all the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) comprising of 600 million people.

The issue of equity is central to the debate surrounding globalization. Poorer countries do not have a level playing field in today’s world. If globalization is to succeed, then the world has to become a more equal place. If the inequalities are not taken care of then globalization will continue to be challenged and will keep on encountering intellectual and popular discontent.

While the developed countries have a key role to play in ensuring success of globalization, the challenge is equally daunting for developing countries. It is important to realize in this context that globalization will play a somewhat marginal role in the developmental process of a country. It cannot be a substitute for the efforts of the people. For poorer countries, it is essential to adopt policies ensuring maximum people’s participation and benefits for the poorer sections, without putting them into additional difficulties.

The ideal of globalisation in the Indian context can be considered on the lines of the thoughts of Rabindranath Tagore, which form the basis of Vishwa Bharathi. He had said “We must build up relationship with the whole world, to serve, and be served to give and to receive, we want to be one with the world’s learning”. If globalisation is taken in this spirit then it will certainly create a world that is more peaceful, tolerant and prosperous.