IF LESS THAN one-half of a percentage of the wealth possessed by the world’s billionaires is donated towards combating world hunger, it can immediately save the lives of some 42 million people.
So said David Beasly, Executive Director of the United Nations’ World Food Programme in a recent interview broadcast by CNN. He was commenting on the incongruous situation where a few multi-billionaires own trillions of dollars while millions of people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean in particular, die every year from hunger.
The situation has become so ridiculous that some of the billionaires are now squandering millions on their own version of a space race while extreme hunger is the scourge of millions of men, women and children. One of the privileged “super rich”, Elon Musk of Tesla, an active participant in the new space race, is estimated to be worth some US$289 billion (289,000,000,000) and just 2% of this worth would be enough to overcome the current global food shortage.
But, Beasly explained, he is “not asking for them to do this every day, nor every week nor every year”. “We have a unique crisis …all I am asking for is 0.36% of your net worth. I am all for people making money, but, God knows, I am also all for helping people who are in great need right .”
The UN programme head said that “one person is dying every four seconds from hunger-related causes”, and pitching a question to the 400 or so billionaires in the USA, asked, “What if it was your family or your daughter who was starving?”
The discrepancy between the so-called “filthy rich” of the world and the hundreds of millions of underfed, was also addressed by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He pointed out that in spite of the pandemic, over the past year the wealth of the richest people in Latin America increased by 5%. He recommended a “solidarity tax” for those who have benefitted financially during the COVID crisis.
Extreme poverty in Latin America is estimated to have increased by 12 per cent during the crisis while the number of billionaires grew by 31%. In the USA the wealth of billionaires has practically doubled in the same period.