It is a great shame that advocates for almost 1.3 billion of the world’s population suffering from extreme poverty often meet with deaf ears. There is much ado about terrorism, and rightly so, but the fact is that poverty-related factors claim many more lives.
Half the world’s population lives under the poverty line, which varies from country to country. The worst affected are developing countries in and but 40 million Americans, seven million Britons and almost a quarter of all (EU) nationals are also classed as being poor.
“As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality exist in our world, none of us can truly rest,” said the late South African President . If only that were so! Sadly, the poor have become the invisible and voiceless, seen but disregarded as a mere nuisance cluttering the landscape or as a burden on taxpayers.
Governments would rather spend on military hardware than on ways to lift their citizens, deprived of decent housing, nutritious food, electricity and clean water, out of their misery.
Such attitudes on the part of authorities are not only immoral but wrong-headed and short-sighted. As we have witnessed in many countries over the decades, sooner or later the forgotten coalesce on the streets to overturn leaderships.
Let us not forget that the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor deprived of his wares to spark a wave of Arab uprisings, the effects of which are still being felt today in , and .
Moreover, poverty has many other side effects apart from starvation and disease; it is known to fuel violence in the home, child abandonment, child labour, slavery, criminals gangs, substance abuse – and, according to some experts, terrorism.
So what can be done about this?
The have had some success, but the pace is far too slow to bring relief to people struggling to keeps their heads above water now. (UN) agencies and charities do their best, but are underfunded due to donor fatigue. The (WPF) was forced to slash food allowances to and, more recently, cut food rations to 200,000 refugees in by 50 per cent.
The problem of dire poverty is solvable provided there is a collective will and a willingness to think out of the box. When, just eight of the world’s richest people own as much combined wealth as half of the human race, aiding the underprivileged should be seen as a moral and religious duty. To quote , “We cannot wait any longer to deal with the structural causes of poverty, in order to heal our society from an illness that can only lead to new crises.”
One answer is the global implementation of a faith-based Eradication Tax, requiring close cooperation between governments and religious authorities under the auspices of the UN. Reports issued by the EU, the University and the and Economic Research have all concluded that global taxation is not only technically feasible but desirable.
Tithing, whereby the faithful are obliged to give a percentage of their income to the poor, is the third pillar of the Islamic faith and one of the bedrocks of both Judaism and Christianity. God almighty says in the : “Take, [O, Muhammad], from their wealth a charity by which you purify them and cause them increase,” Surat At-Tawbah, verse 103.
The / the mandates the believers to give 10 per cent of their earnings to the poor. It is my belief that permitting religious principles to underpin our efforts will bear fruit if the following methodology is used:
An independent organization (the ‘Organization) should be formed and supervised by a rotating committee made up of representatives from member states, tasked with pinpointing areas of need in coordination with the various organs of the , the , the () and various NGOs, charities, philanthropic individuals and governments.
The Organization would be the recipient of revenues generated by a global property tax based on a percentage of member states’ respective GDPs, greatly bolstered by a faith-based poverty-alleviation tax.
Oxfam asserts that a tax on just half of the $32tn hidden in tax havens would be sufficient to end extreme poverty worldwide twice over.
A mere two per cent annual tax on the GDP of the planet’s four largest economies – the ($16.77tn), ($9.24tn), ($4.92tn) and ($3.73tn) would yield almost one trillion dollars annually.
Participating secular states would be obliged to launch media campaigns in partnership with Islamic, Christian, Jewish and other authorities to stress the importance and the advantages of an additional taxation dedicated to the poor.
Banks, multinational corporations, philanthropic trusts, religious authorities and wealthy individuals should be encouraged to donate and to use their best endeavours to promote this international effort.
It is my sincere hope that the prominent decision makers from both the public and private sectors attending the in Dubai will take the above steps under serious consideration. Like the threat of climate change, that galvanized 190 nations to sign up to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, battling poverty together can smash the virtual walls keeping us apart.
Another point to be considered are the very real benefits to economies that education and improving skill sets can deliver in terms of a reduction in state welfare and an increase in tax payers/consumers.
Showing our belief in the Creator with prayer and fasting is important but if we continue to ignore His command to the strong to help the weak, we are guilty of cherry-picking the ordinance of our faiths. With open hearts and pockets we can work wonders. Let us do it!